Earlier this week, Jimmie Lanley posted an article with lots of great advice for parents considering online learning, including a tip from yours truly.
But if you’ve decided that you ARE ready to try online learning, keep on reading! Below is a list of the most important things I've learned about it since I started this journey with Fortuigence three years ago.
Remember, the way an online program delivers it's content can have a huge impact on your experience!
Questions to Ask and Things to Know About Online Programs:
1) Is your computer or tablet relatively new (less than 4-5 years old)? Older equipment won’t display the graphics, videos, etc. that many online programs have now, so check on that. This can make for a very frustrating experience with an online program!
2) How well can the online course be taken or seen on a mobile device?
3) Is the program self paced? A program that’s self-paced means that your kids complete the course on your schedule. Parents set a schedule of completion for their kids if they wish to do so. (Our Essay Rock Star writing program is self paced.)
In a course that’s not self-paced, there will be a set schedule of classes. Make sure the schedule is one that works for you, and ask what happens if you have to miss part of the course. Are make-up classes available? Do you get a refund?
4) What is "synchronous" content delivery? In this case, content is delivered live to students via some form of video conferencing, like Google Hangouts. You get live interaction from the instructor on a set schedule created by the school. During the live meeting, the instructor delivers the course content in the form of a lecture or with a powerpoint presentation.
5) What is "asynchronous" content delivery? Here, prepared and/or prerecorded content is placed online and students retrieve, study, and do assignments at a time of their choosing. Instructors are available by email. For example, Fortuigence’s Essay Rock Star program is asynchronous.
6) What is a "flipped classroom?" This is a combination of both synchronous and asynchronous learning! All the learning materials are available online for students to access at their convenience, but there are also regular live meetings with the instructor.
In this case, the instructor isn’t the first source of content delivery. They expect students to have followed directions, studied content, and done the assignment that's been posted in the online class BEFORE the live meeting. During the live class meeting, the teacher answers questions, goes into in depth discussions on the content students are already familiar with, and gives feedback on assignments.
7) Do students in an online course interact with each other, and how does that work? For example, is there a forum? If so, who moderates it and what are the rules around participation?
8) If there is a live teacher interacting with your child in the online program, who are they? An online school should allow parents to see all lessons, content, and teacher interactions with their kids. Remember, in brick and mortar schools in the U.S., the teaching staff is required to have FBI checks done before being hired. That’s not necessarily true with online schools. The online school must be open and transparent with parents.
9) Are you looking for a course that delivers skills training, content knowledge, or a combination of both? Be clear on what your child needs most at the time of your search. For example, Essay Rock Star is primarily a writing skills training program.
Did I leave anything out? Let me know with a comment below!