If you had asked ‘why do students enroll in cyber school?’, I would have answered: flexibility, curriculum, or to escape a bad situation at their former school (bored, bullied, bad teachers, bad learning environment, needs not being met, etc.)
Your question about "advantages" calls for slightly different answers.
Briefly, cybers offer a fresh start, a customized education, flexibility, an expansive curriculum, a safe learning environment, anonymity, parental involvement, and the opportunity to become a self-motivated, self-disciplined learner who confidently uses new digital technology tools to do work and acquire knowledge.
Cyber school gives students a fresh start in a new school. No cliques, no bus rides, no study halls, no mean girls, no bully boys, no being put in "the dumb class." Pulling your child out of public school is not a decision parents take lightly. They start thinking about alternatives when their child is unhappy, unsafe, or not making academic progress. We get a lot of failing students, and our staff knows how to get these kids up to grade level if they will do the work necessary.
Bright kids may be bored to death in classes that move at the pace of the slowest learner. Cyber school lets these students race ahead.
The child may be an elite athlete or performer - a dancer, ice skater, musician, singer - who needs time to practice and compete to reach the highest levels of an art or sport. We have students who are working, sometimes from financial necessity, sometimes starting early on careers in dance, acting or music.
Traditional schools have a hard time customizing education for each child. On our website you’ll find the story of Eric Carlson, who when he enrolled as a sixth grader had 3rd grade skills in language and 9th grade math skills. In cyber school, we can mix and match grade levels and classes to suit each child's situation.
The relative anonymity of cyber school, where students are identified by first name only and nobody sees their faces, is a great liberator for kids who are shy or were bullied. Even in virtual classes, the other students don't know if a fellow student has special needs, is overweight or geeky, was held back or accelerated. Kids who shrank from exposure in the classroom often blossom in cyber school.
Other advantages? How about:
- Curriculum: Most high schools offer 70-80 courses at most. We offer 250 and counting.
- Safety: If your school has to have metal detectors, wouldn't you consider cyber school?
- Parent involvement: Especially in grades K-2, a parent is directly involved in teaching the child under guidance of certified teachers with state-approved curriculum. At all grade levels, cyber parents must remain more involved with school than in a classroom school if their child is to succeed. In either virtual or self-paced classes, the parent can observe exactly what the child is learning every day – something not possible in a classroom school.
Finally, think about the changes that computer technology and the Internet have made in the past 10 years, and imagine how these changes will accelerate in the next 10.
I just heard on the news that the Encyclopedia Brittannica will cease issuing a printed version. Wikipedia has been shown to be more accurate, not to mention more comprehensive, inclusive, and current, than traditional encyclopedias. Will classroom schools, like printed encyclopedias, go the way of the dinosaurs?
Nobody is predicting the end of classroom instruction. But the fact remains that K-12 public schools and teachers have been incredibly slow to adapt to a world in which they should be facilitators of learning, not gatekeepers of knowledge.
Young people embrace the skills and technology of an ultra-interconnected wireless world, and naturally are attracted to schools which promise to help them instead of holding them back.
This post was written by NNDS employee Fred Miller, who serves as the communications coordinator for The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, a Lincoln Interactive school. Comments on this article may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.