There are 23 online public schools serving nearly 65,000 students across the state of Ohio. Online academies are an option for students that want or need to move away from traditional site-based schools. When a family makes the decision to enroll their child in an online school, the student receives a computer and online access to the school as well as grade-level instruction from a licensed Ohio teacher. Though students that graduate from online schools receive a diploma just like students at brick and mortar schools, a stigma is sometimes attached to online schools and the students who attend them. We reached out to online school providers in Ohio to bust some common myths and misunderstandings about virtual schools.
Myth #1: Students never see their teachers.
While it’s true that students at online schools don’t see their teachers as often as students at brick and mortar schools do, students and families have a variety of opportunities throughout the school year to see their teachers. “Students see their teachers on field trips and at state testing throughout the year (state testing is done in person). Students don’t see their teachers all the time but they do see them,” says Maria Hanna, Superintendent of Ohio Connections Academy, an online school that served nearly 5,000 students during the 2016-2017 school year.
Myth #2: Teachers at online schools are not as highly qualified as they are at traditional schools.
Parents may worry that teachers at online schools do not have the same qualifications as in traditional schools, but that’s just not the correct says Amanda Conley, Head of School at Insight School of Ohio. “Our teachers are highly qualified Ohio licensed teachers.” Hanna seconds that, saying,“The teachers have to be highly qualified here just like anywhere else. Over half of our teachers have a master’s degrees.”
Myth #3: Students never engage with other students.
Though much of the interaction is online, kids often have ample opportunity to connect with other students. “Students engage with each other daily at Insight School of Ohio,” says Conley. “Students collaborate through the online learning system and present and participate in discussions during live online sessions facilitated by the teacher.” According to a blog written by students of Ohio Connections Academy, in-person engagements such as graduation, the National Honors Society ceremony and field trips take place in Columbus because it is centrally located for most students that attend throughout the state.
Myth #4: Online school isn’t as rigorous as traditional schooling.
Online schools offer a variety of courses that can be as challenging as in brick and mortar schools, including Advanced Placement classes. “Students take all of the same tests at our school as they would anywhere else,” says Hanna. “If they’re going to college they have to take the SAT and ACT. We offer advance placement (AP) classes and they take the AP exam after doing the AP course. We have basically all the same requirements and standards.”
Myth #5: Online students spend all day in front of a computer.
While students do spend time in front of the computer, administrators make sure that time spent online is developmentally appropriate. “Our K and 1st graders have books and workbooks and they aren’t online all day,” says Hanna. Conley adds that their curriculum “allows opportunities to use visual, kinesthetic and auditory learning to help students who have different learning styles.”
Myth #6: Online school is really just meant for students that have fallen behind academically.
“We understand that online education isn’t for everyone but kids come here for a lot of different reasons,” says Hanna. “Some students have special needs and their parents have decided that the environment at home works better for that child. There are families that have their students come here because they want to have their own values strengthened instead of being at a school with other values. We have kids who take a break from brick and mortar schools because they’ve been bullied or had negative interactions and they may return in a few years. This is really about personalized learning and what is best for the child.”
Myth #7: Online schools are expensive.
In Ohio, all statewide e-schools (see sidebar) and district-sponsored e-schools are absolutely free.
Myth #8: Colleges don’t like degrees from online schools.
Parents may worry that a degree from an online school won’t carry the weight of a traditional brick and mortar diploma. “Colleges look at students individual achievements and grades as well as scores on ACT and SAT,” says Hanna. “They don’t seem to be interested at all on whether they came through an e-school or not. Many of our students do go to college and our senior classes have earned more than 3 million in scholarships in the past few years.”
Could an online academy be right for your student? Think about the pros and cons of virtual learning for your child, research available options and talk with families who are currently enrolled in an online school. If a traditional educational setting isn’t working for your student, an online option could be the environment where your child thrives.
Statewide E-Schools in Ohio