The implementation of lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic prompted parents to consider post-Covid online learning. Several schools have since opened their (virtual) doors to prospective students.
However, parents do not always know how to objectively assess the quality of these schools. It has now become clear that over the past year many schools that appeared on the surface to be of a high standard have failed to deliver on their promises to students.
Evolve Online School Principal Colin Northmore said it’s important for parents to carefully weigh different schools against factors that can mean the difference between success and failure.
He said choosing an online school shouldn’t come as a surprise as it requires the same level of care from parents as an in-person school.
“However, there is still a misconception that online schools and their offerings are comparable because they use similar technology, stick to one curriculum, require a child to have a device and some self-discipline, and it’s smooth sailing from there. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth as good online schools need to offer much more than a curriculum and some tutoring behind a screen,” added Northmore.
According to Northmore, many young students who started online education this year are finding themselves in difficult situations after enrolling in online schools whose marketing hasn’t done justice to their accomplishments, and parents are now trying to fix the problem Fix it so their kids don’t have to repeat the year.
“Online school is a great option for students who are better off working alone, families who are mobile and need to ensure consistent education when traveling, and so on – there are many reasons to choose to attend an online school . But we implore parents to carefully weigh different schools against the objective factors that can make the difference between success and failure.”
Northmore has provided a checklist for parents to look out for when researching and comparing online schools. This includes:
Registration and Accreditation
The most basic first check is to ensure that the school is registered and accredited by the relevant authorities. Enrollment is difficult to verify as the Department needs a policy for online school enrollment. Without this certainty, parents can check whether the school is an independent school or part of a school group. You can also find out if the school is registered with an examinations board such as Cambridge International’s Independent Exams Board. Registration with an examination board should be non-negotiable.
Academic excellence, reputation, track record and institutional support
Is the online school part of a school group with proven academic excellence in their brick-and-mortar schools? Do their students have a reputation for outperforming and succeeding across the board in online and face-to-face schools? These are essential questions to ask in order to determine whether a new school is capitalizing on the growing demand for online schools or whether it has the history, track record and institutional support needed to provide quality education.
Can the school deliver exams, lectures, and materials on time and stick to the annual calendar without fidgeting? Online studies require a high degree of discipline and independence. The last thing a student needs is for their progress to be hampered and frustrated by an institution logistically unable to deliver a consistent quality offering.
Rounded education/screen time vs. green time
Is the school committed to the whole child and a well-rounded education? Just being a delivering and testing factory is not enough. An excellent online school will include diagnostic tests to determine a student’s exact level of achievement prior to placement and throughout the educational journey; asynchronous learning to allow learners to move through content at their own pace and ability, with direct access to teachers facilitating additional activation classes; synchronous learning, where students can also participate in live, interactive classes; and socialization opportunities with academies, studios, and day camps so students can mingle with their peers and balance their screen time with green time.
Northmore explained that parents should continue to question all claims as promises are easy to make but difficult to deliver in the online education environment.
“Are you confident that they will be responsive and approachable after contact with the school? Are you sure your child can easily and routinely access extra support? Online training is much more than syllabus delivery. An online school should focus on helping students develop and excel academically, while supporting them to grow into confident and competent members of society.”
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