Virtual Academy Overview
About Online Schools
For students enrolled in online schools, learning happens at home, on the road, or wherever an internet connection can be found. Attendance, teacher interaction, and daily lessons are all conducted online.
In grades K–8, a certified or licensed teacher is assigned to each student. Teachers communicate through e-mail, telephone, online meetings, and sometimes face to face. In high school, students are assigned a team of teachers, each trained and experienced in one of the core subject areas. The family also receives school materials, including textbooks, CDs, videos, and hands-on materials. These materials complement online learning and the overall schooling experience while catering to a variety of learning styles to maximize learning objectives.
In grades K–8, the parent (or another responsible adult) works closely with the teacher as the child's Learning Coach. Each week, the parent receives a suggested lesson plan, which updates automatically as the child progresses. In high school, the student is expected to be accountable for their own time and schedule management and works more collaboratively with an online class of other students. The parent or Learning Coach still serves an important role of support.
While these schools enable truly individualized learning at a flexible pace and schedule—and accommodate a variety of learning styles—they also come with the structure and administrative support associated with traditional schools. These programs are full-time, meaning they replace a traditional classroom environment with a location that the family chooses.
The Parent's Role
The role of the parent varies from K–8 to high school. In K–8, you as the parent (or another responsible adult) work in conjunction with the teacher and serve as a Learning Coach to your student, helping facilitate progress through the daily lessons and modifying the pace and schedule according to your child's needs. The teacher communicates with you via e-mail, telephone, online meetings, or even face to face. A suggested lesson plan is provided to you each week, which updates automatically as your child progresses. You can vary the lesson plan to accommodate your child's pace or abilities: for instance, some kids do better when they can concentrate on their math studies for longer hours per day but fewer days per week. Other parents use their children's favorite subject as a reward to give the child a break periodically from tougher subjects.
In high school, students are expected to be more accountable for their daily progress and time management. They have one subject-specific teacher for each class. These teachers are responsible for reviewing all student work and providing instructional feedback. Teachers work together on a teaching team and employ a cooperative team-teaching approach. The student is expected to move at a consistent pace in each subject, though there is room for flexibility. The parent still plays a supportive role to help the student stay on task and ensure they are following through on their assignments—but the student is expected to start managing their own time and scheduling more directly.
Working with Teachers
Although parents serve as the primary Learning Coach for their student and help manage their student's schedule, they are never alone in the education process.
An experienced K–8 teacher is assigned to each child and communicates with parents and students regularly through e-mail, telephone, and online meetings. Teachers remain constantly involved: they monitor progress, ensure mastery, develop specific intervention plans when a child is struggling, and manage all facets of the instructional experience.
High school courses are taught by teachers specifically experienced in their respective subjects. They grade student assignments and assessments, respond to student questions via e-mail or phone, conduct online tutorial sessions to reinforce difficult topics, and hold online “office hours” to allow students to “drop in” with questions. With teachers nearby, parents don’t need to worry about having expertise in high school subjects.
Online Lessons. A roadmap is provided for each online lesson, including directions to specific online and offline materials, online lesson content, and a summary of the major objectives for the lesson. Lessons utilize a combination of innovative technologies, including flash animations and online interactivity, coordinated textbooks and hands-on materials, and individualized feedback to create an engaging, responsive, and highly effective curriculum. Each lesson also contains an online assessment to ensure that students have mastered the material and are ready to proceed to the next lesson, allowing them to work at their own pace. Pronunciation guides for keywords and references to suggested additional resources specific to each lesson and each student’s assessment are also included.
Offline Learning Kits. Online school courses utilize a series of offline learning kits to help maximize the effectiveness of the learning system, including textbooks, art supplies, laboratory supplies (e.g., microscopes and scales), and other reference materials, which are incorporated throughout the online school’s curriculum.
Teacher's Guides. Online school courses are typically paired with a teacher’s guide. Each guide outlines the course objectives, references all course content that is contained in the online and offline course materials, includes answers and explanations to the exercises that the students complete, and contains suggestions for explaining difficult concepts to students.