Online schools are not all the same. Just as the quality of teaching and learning varies immensely across traditional schools there are online schools doing a great job, those that are mediocre and some that are failing. You won’t know that difference though if you’re just scanning websites and social media pages. So, it’s important to set up a meeting with the online school leaders and find out about their educational approach, values, strategies, and operations.
Typically, this is the kind of meeting a parent would have with a traditional school before enrolling their child, so you should expect an online school to be equally available, and eager to connect with you to make sure you get a proper insight into their school.
Parents strive to make optimal school choices so that their unique child thrives in a stable and secure learning environment. Free from geography, online schools today offer parents a much wider choice and greater flexibility for the family. What you want from an online school is that it consistently delivers an accredited, quality education and that it is sustainably managed.
It’s important for parents to think about what kind of education they want for their children in our fast-changing world. They need to understand the school’s values, educational philosophy, and assessment strategy, and ensure this matches their family values and aspirations for their child’s education.
In addition, here are 6 must-ask questions for the school leader, which we put to Koa Academy’s Principal Mark Anderson:
What is the child to teacher ratio?
Mark: You should expect this to be low at an online school, much lower than traditional school class sizes. Koa has small Pods with a maximum of 8 children to one teacher. This means that every child is seen and heard. This is important because learning in small groups is the best way to ensure that students are highly engaged in their learning environment.
How easily can I contact the teacher/principal if I have concerns?
Mark: You should expect this to be super-easy. Teachers and school leaders should be readily and directly available to you through phone, video chat and email channels.
Is the school accredited?
Mark: You must ask this question and understand the accreditation offered. Unfortunately, there are unaccredited online schools. Koa is IEB-accredited which is the same as a traditional, private South African school. IEB offers a range of top benefits to our learners, and we can tell you all about that.
Does the school offer latest online education resources and platforms, or is it simply traditional school dumped online and presented on-screen?
Mark: Online school has a distinct pedagogy, and it should expose your child to extraordinary learning resources and connect them to the best global platforms and learning apps enabling individualised learning at your child’s own pace. This is a key benefit of online schooling that you want your child to experience, so make sure you have a clear understanding of how the school delivers education to its learners and that they will be making use of top educational platforms and resources.
Mark: Online school can and should be a safe, connected place of socio emotional as well as academic learning. Koa actively fosters an on- and off-line school community in a variety of ways. Learners interact every day in their Pod, and we also regularly bring the whole school together for online assemblies, expos, and events. There’s a calendar of in-person social events and educational outings so that learners and their families have opportunities to get together and develop relationships in the school community. Parents are also connected via WhatsApp groups.
What do the school fees include?
Mark: When comparing school fees, make sure there are no hidden but compulsory costs. Many online schools advertise a set fee but then add on unavoidable costs for textbooks, online platforms, or tutors. At Koa, we keep it simple with a fully inclusive fee, but this is not necessarily the standard approach.
As a parent you should expect that, at an online school, your child will be guided through the curriculum by skilled online teachers who know how to facilitate learning on a digital platform. You should not be teaching your child, nor should your child be learning all alone each day.
Socialization is a priority for most parents, and the online school should be clear and deliberate in the ways that it connects learners so that they can build healthy peer relationships. There is also no good reason why the academics should not be as robust and rigorous as traditional school.
The online school should offer the same accepted curriculum and recognized qualifications. With this as foundational, your child can embark on an individualised school journey that enhances their digital literacy and enables them to gain an education that is highly relevant to our real-world, spanning the in-person and digital realms.