During the pandemic, many students got their first taste of online learning. School systems rolled out an online option (with varying degrees of success) to respond to the emerging global threat. 

But since then, several students have realized that – in fact – they preferred learning online. They liked the flexibility, convenience and accessibility. Even after the pandemic has died down and “lockdown measures” are in the rear-view mirror, several students are expressing an interest in continuing their virtual learning. The only difference is that now, these online schools are established, effective and well-organized. 

If your young learner is interested in switching to an online education, it’s in everyone’s best interest to survey your options. In this article, let’s explore a few tips for choosing the right virtual school. 

Make Sure It’s Assessed, Evaluated and Credentialed by Your Local Governing Body

When selecting an online school, the first and most important thing to do is check credentials. You want to ensure the school is credentialed to award credits toward a high school diploma – credits universally recognized by colleges and universities. 

In the US, these credentials are overseen by state education agencies that vet and assess private schools; you’re looking for online schools that hold “accreditation.” Meanwhile, in Canada, you want to look for a ministry inspected online high school that adheres to a standardized curriculum and can award credits toward a diploma. 

Find an Online High School Offering “Asynchronous” or “Self-Paced” Learning

The best online schools run on an asynchronous or self-paced model, meaning that students learn at their own speed. As opposed to synchronous, instructor-led models, students can take their time on challenging concepts without worrying about competing with peers. Likewise, students can also breeze through course units they find easy, thereby finishing their courses faster and completing high school sooner. This self-paced approach is a key reason many students enjoy their online school experience. 

Select a School That Meaningfully Supports Its Students

This step will require some digging. Look at the online school’s website for mentions of support. The best online schools will have an entire site section or FAQ section dedicated to explaining how they support their students. Some of the best online schools offer 24/7 tutoring for enrolled students. However, at a bare minimum, you want to ensure that the school promises one-on-one question periods with instructors. 

Look at Testimonials and Reviews for a Measure of the School’s Quality

Let the school speak for itself. What do students and parents have to say about their experience with the online school? Were the instructors generous and helpful, or hard to reach? Were the materials engaging and multi-media-oriented, or basic and uninspiring? Did they feel supported throughout their journey or lost in the shuffle? Look for a testimonials section on the school’s website and cross-reference it with reviews from other sites like Google. (Just be wary of sites like GreatSchools; this Vox article explains why). 

If you find a school that’s a) ministry-inspected/accredited, b) self-paced, c) supported and d) well-reviewed, then you’ve found a winner. As a first step, book an appointment with the school guidance professional to discuss the best trajectory for you or your kid.

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