Students and parents worldwide are considering virtual schools as a viable alternative to the traditional education system.

But since it’s so new compared to the brick and mortar schooling, people have doubts about its quality and are confused about its effectiveness.

There are so many valid questions in a person’s mind that are keeping one from taking advantage of virtual schools. This includes concern about socialization, how the classes will work, the enrollment procedure, and more.

This is why we have put together this detailed read going in-depth into everything you don’t know and need to know about how virtual school works.

Let’s get started.

What is Virtual School? How Does it Differ From a Traditional Brick and Mortar School?

A virtual school is just another name for an online school where the majority of the learning and teacher-student interaction happens online, over the internet. It is also known as e-school and cyber-school in some groups.

Since all educational instructions are delivered over the internet, it offers an unparalleled level of flexibility for the students. Students don’t have to physically visit a brick and mortar school to get their education, therefore providing quality education in areas with poor transportation.

Furthermore, all the study materials are available through an online portal and are accessible 24/7. As such, students can fix their own time and don’t need to adhere to the strict routine of traditional schools.

This can be really advantageous for students who have timing clashes with other events happening in their life. For example, a student might also be a child performer or an actor, and the school timing might be preventing him/her from pursuing the career.

How Does Virtual School Work?

At first, you will need to enroll in a virtual school, just like you do in a regular, traditional school setting. The enrollment procedure is also managed online through the official website of the virtual school.

Once you are enrolled, you will get access to the online education portal or dashboard. The design and user interface of the education portal will vary depending on the virtual school or the online course provider.

From here, you will have access to all the online study material 24/7. Apart from this, depending on your Curriculum, the school might also receive offline complementary study material.

You can now set your own schedule and start studying. If a topic seems easy, you can breeze past it quickly. If a topic appears difficult, you can take your time with it. Much of the study material is going to be in the form of recorded video.

You can slow down or fast-forward the video or replay it over and over again on demand till you understand the topic sufficiently.

In an online setting you are going to have access to teachers, but not 24/7. They will be online following a scheduled time. You can get in touch with them during specified in-office hours to clear any and all of your questions and doubts.

As a bonus, there will be group video chats where students can interact and engage with other students who are a part of the class.

Are Virtual Schools Right for You?

The amount of flexibility and freedom that comes with virtual schooling makes it viable and attractive to a wide variety of students with different learning styles. Here are a few examples of students who will really benefit from moving to a virtual school.

Self-Paced Learners

The traditional school setting delivers education material at a fixed pace.

There is a fixed time allocated for each lesson. The teachers have to move to the next lesson, even if there are students who could not properly comprehend the previous one. Similarly, a bright student who understands the topic very quickly will still have to sit through the class, making them bored.

In both of these cases, virtual schooling proves beneficial. Students dedicate as much time or as little time as they need to each lesson before moving on to the next one.

Allowing students to study at their own pace keeps the educational environment interesting and engaging. And when the student stumbles into an issue, they can simply contact the teacher to resolve it.

Constant Travelers

Some students are constantly traveling. This could be due to performances (sport, musical, technical,…), parents and their jobs, or simply their hobby. And jumping from one school to another is a hectic, often unpleasant, experience.

Before the student has a chance to adjust to the teaching style of new teachers and get acquainted with classmates, they will be taken to a whole new school to start over again. This often has detrimental effects on  learning capabilities and interest.

However, with virtual schooling, the student has access to the same learning material and support from the same teachers no matter where they are. As long as there is an active internet connection, the student can study from anywhere they like.

Career-Focused Students

There are also students who are focused on their careers from early childhood. This includes kids working in movies, traveling around doing music concerts or going through heavy training to join a sports team.

In such cases, the idea of going to a brick and mortar school at a set location, for a fixed period of time can feel extremely debilitating.

However, by joining a virtual school, students can be anywhere in the world and won’t miss out on their education. They can adjust the study hours to fit their own unique schedule so that they can effectively organize a time for work, study, and play at their own convenience.

Students with Disabilities

Living with medical disabilities is hard, as it is. And attending school, concentrating during the classes, and social interactions with classmates can be extremely taxing for students with special needs.

Joining a virtual school ensures the child will get a safe place from where they can continue their education.

Tech-Savvy Students

Traditional schools follow traditional schooling methods which can feel oldschool, almost like a caveman education for modern kids.

It is often by dividing technology and education, children formulate the idea that phones and laptops are for entertainment, and it is books that are for studying.

This is where cyber education comes in handy and  solves this problem by marrying technology with education. Students get to use computers during the study sessions, which also helps them familiarize with technologies, learn how to use them. This is going to be an invaluable skill when they grow up and get ready to do first steps towards their career.

Pros and Cons of Joining a Virtual School

Joining a virtual school has many benefits. But just like traditional brick and mortar schools, it isn’t perfect. Each schooling system is suited for different students with different needs.

Here we will be looking at some of the pros and cons of the virtual schooling system to give you an idea of places where it shines and areas where it falls short.

It should help you decide whether a virtual school is right for you or not.

Advantages of a Virtual School

  • No need to travel to a physical brick and mortar school. This will not only save money on transport expenses but it also saves a lot of time.
  • Studying on the internet will prime students to do research on the internet. This will make them more independent and resourceful.
  • Ability to set your routine and schedule, so you can study whenever you want. Are you a morning person? No problem. Do you prefer to study after lunch? Shoot. Are you a night owl? Well, this is just a place for you.
  • Students get to learn at their own pace. They take as little or as much time on topics as they want and need to comprehend them.
  • You are only judged on your merits and not on other factors.
  • Teaches students how to collaborate with educators and fellow students on an online platform. This is a skill that is going to be important in our digital age.
  • Considerably more cost-effective compared to traditional schooling options.
  • Helps develop crucial life skills in the student. This includes becoming more disciplined, learning time management, taking responsibility for own work, and much more.

Disadvantages of a  Virtual School

  • A virtual school can’t provide as many socialization opportunities as a traditional school. As such, students should be encouraged to participate in other extracurricular activities like sports, or joining a book club or chess club for face-to-face interaction with their peers.
  • Staying focused and disciplined to complete the studies on their own can be challenging, especially when starting out. Parents need to devote enough time to make sure students are sincere with their studies, at least when starting out.
  • Virtual schools are cost-effective in the long run. But to get you started the initial costs can be exceedingly high, especially because of a need for solid internet connectivity and a computer.
  • Traditional schools indirectly teach students the importance of teamwork, friendship, fending for yourself, and much more. As such, critiques are afraid that a generation raised without these life lessons might be detrimental to society.
  • Although this might not be the case in the future, currently, getting a job with an online degree is significantly harder. Students need to enroll in a reputed virtual school with proven testimonies and alumnus boasting successful students, which is one of the largest drawbacks of cyber education of our time.
  • Studying by yourself is not only flexible, but it also requires discipline. We all sometimes lose focus, let our thoughts wander around, watch a butterfly sitting on the window and drift among endless streams of other distractions. And there is nothing wrong about it. It is proven that wandering minds are more abundant in creative ideas in comparison to strictly nurtured heads. But there should be boundaries we shouldn’t cross, especially in the education process. For some focus can be much harder to keep than for others, especially when there is nobody around to help you navigate through your thoughts.

FAQs on Virtual Schools

We hope that this read has helped paint a clear picture of what virtual schools are and how they work. To further clarify here are a few frequently asked questions students and parents often ask us.

#1. Virtual School vs Homeschool – Same or Different?

It is a common misconception that virtual schools are the same as homeschools – they are not! Yes, in both scenarios, the student is studying from their home, but that is where all similarities end.

In case of homeschooling, the parent is completely in charge of the student’s education. This includes creating the curriculum, teaching the students, clearing their doubts, setting up exams to evaluate performance, and almost anything related.

In the case of a virtual school, the parent only serves as an overseer. The parent looks after the student to make sure they are studying on time and are tasked with reporting back to the teachers if the student struggles with a subject or topic.

With virtual schools, the curriculum is already provided by the school, and it is the school who will arrange assessment exams. Furthermore, state-certified teachers will be appointed to create the study material and clarify any doubts or questions the students might have.

Other than this, a virtual school also has an attendance policy and academic progress requirements similar to a traditional brick and mortar school. The students are required to log in to the online portal and record their attendance.

As such, it would be wrong to see virtual schools as a completely different and radical alternative education medium. It is like enrolling your children in a school, with a difference that the school is inside their computer and requires an internet connection to access.

#2. How do Virtual School Students Socialize?

Virtual schools do provide ample opportunity for students to communicate and socialize with their classmates. This includes group video chats with the classroom in the presence of the teacher. There is also the option to privately get in touch with other students through phone calls, IM, social media, video chat, and more.

Other than this, field trips are often organized by the school when students get to meet up with all their classmates and engage face to face.

It is evident that the students won’t have as many face-to-face interactions with other kids, as is the case with traditional schooling.

This is why it is recommended that students enrolled in a virtual school engage in some extracurricular activities to develop their social skills from there. This includes taking swimming lessons, going to sports practice, joining a chess club, etc.

#3. Will Students Get Help From Teachers If and When They Need it?

All students of a virtual school are assigned a state-certified teacher. They will be in charge of monitoring the students’ academic progress and making sure they don’t struggle to comprehend any of the course material.

Here is a list of duties of the virtual school teachers to help you get a better understanding:

  • Provides academic instructionals, guidance, and support to ensure the student gets the best possible education and experience.
  • Tracks and records the students’ attendance and progress in their studies.
  • Evaluates any coursework, essays, or homework completed by the student.
  • Regular communication with the students through phone, face-to-face meetings, video chats, and email.
  • Arrange academic workshops and field trips where students come together, thereby promoting a feeling of the school community.
  • Works together with the parent or any responsible adult to ensure the student is getting a proper education.
  • Takes part in regular training and professional development courses to ensure they are up-to-date.

#4. Are Credits Transferable Between an Online School and a Traditional School?

Yes, normally credits are transferable between an online school and a traditional school. However, details depend on the schools’ accreditation and what curriculum is being followed.

Suppose both schools are accredited by the same body, and they follow the same curriculum. In that case, credit transfer is possible without much hassle.

In case the student is transferring from a non-accredited school, or both schools follow different curriculums, some of their old credits might not be accepted. In that case, the student will be required to do additional coursework to make up for the lost credits.

At the time of enrolling or transferring to a virtual school, an academic placement team will be there to evaluate the student’s educational records.

They will take into account grades and credits received by the student in the previous schooling environment to assign an appropriate grade level and course that fits his or her needs.

As such, transfer at the beginning of a new school year or semester is the best option for the student.

#5. Will Virtual Schools Follow the Common-Core Curriculum?

Almost every virtual school curriculum will include the following subjects in their Curriculum – Language, Arts, Maths, Science, and Social Studies. However, depending on the virtual school you enroll in, the course curriculum might differ in terms of what books are followed, what topics are being taught, etc.

Typically, the schools are required to follow whatever Curriculum that state has specified. So if your state has adopted the Common-Core Curriculum, then all virtual schools operating in that state will be required to follow it.

Besides this, there are also some schools that are affiliated with the K12 program and follow the K12 Curriculum. So if you enroll in a K12 accredited virtual school like Red Comet, you will follow the K12 Curriculum.

Read this to learn more about the K12 Curriculum.

#6. How Much Time Students Need to Spend Online, In-Front of a Screen?

One of the biggest concerns displayed by both parents and critiques of online education is that students are spending unnaturally long-hours in front of screens. However, that is often not the case, at least not because of cyber education.

For example, in a single school day, students studying in grades K to 2 will only need to spend around 1 to 2 hours online, in front of a computer screen. The rest of the course material is offline and involves the students reading books or doing work in their exercise books.

Older students studying in grades 2 to 5 will need to spend around 2.5 to 4 hours for their online coursework.

Finally, for students enrolled in middle school or high school, almost all the coursework will be online, which amounts to around 6 to 7 hours per day.

As you can see, the number of hours spent in front of a screen is controlled through the coursework and study material and increases with the students’ age. As such, younger students don’t need to worry too much about getting too exposed to blue light radiation from computer screens.

That being said, it is still advised that the student invests in a good monitor and wears blue-light filtering glasses to ensure their eyes are protected as much as possible.

In Summary

With every passing day, virtual schooling is becoming more and more popular, which is making more people curious about what it is and how it works.

In a nutshell, a virtual school (or an online school, or cyber school) is similar to a traditional school, but the lessons are delivered online.

Because education is done online, anyone can access it as long as they have an internet connection. This makes virtual schools much more accessible than traditional brick and mortar schools, especially in rural areas where it is hard to provide a good enough infrastructure for quality education.

With that in mind, even though virtual schools offer tons of advantages, it isn’t here to replace traditional schools. Instead, it caters to a demographic of students who were unsatisfied or unfulfilled with the traditional schooling system.

There are tons of advantages and disadvantages of virtual schooling. As such it is up to you to look at both sides of the coin before deciding whether online schooling is right for you or not.

Among advantages of cyber schooling we can find:

  • No need to travel to school
  • Self-powered research powers minds and creativity
  • Study on your own rhythm
  • Learn at own pace
  • Learn to use online tools
  • Cost-effective
  • Develop crucial skills by working in a solitude

And among disadvantages of virtual school are:

  • Not so many social opportunities
  • Staying focused
  • Initial costs
  • Learning non-curriculum skills can be neglected
  • Starting a career with an online degree
  • Discipline is required

In general, the online schooling system is the best suited for certain student types, like tech-savvy students, students with disabilities, career-focused students, travelers, or self-paced learners.

What do you think? Is an online education the right fit for you?

Did you like the guide? Then read more from our Virtual Education Series at RedComet.org/blog.