What Is a Virtual High School and Is It Right for You?
August 12, 2020
Parents throughout the U.S. are currently facing some difficult decisions: as the country continues to see a rise in COVID-19 cases, school districts are struggling to determine their back-to-school plans. For some districts, that means going fully virtual; for others, that means charging ahead with in-person schedules or creating hybrid methods. No matter what decisions are made, though, it’s pretty clear that parents are left feeling confused, frustrated, and worried.
As a result, many families are considering new options altogether, including enrolling their high school- and middle-school-aged children into virtual high schools -- online programs that are designed specifically with a digital-first approach, curated and taught by experts in online education. Here, we’ll break down what, exactly, a virtual high school is and the benefits it can offer, all with the goal of helping better understand if it’s the right option for their child.
A brief history of virtual high schools, like Dwight Global Online School
As technology has advanced, so too has our ability to use the latest technology platforms in new ways -- including in the education space. Online classes have been around as long as the Internet, but it’s only in recent years that cohesive, thoughtful online education programs have thrived -- thanks in part to administrators and entrepreneurs who recognize and address the changing needs of students, particularly those whose families travel often, or those who have passion projects that require flexibility with their schedules, such as young performers, athletes, and those needing special supports.
In 2010, Dwight School (the renowned private school with campuses in New York, London, Seoul, Shanghai, and Dubai) launched its very first online class -- and by 2014, Dwight Global Online School was founded, bringing the Dwight mission of igniting the spark of genius in every child to students all across the world. Dwight Global prides itself on being a school without limitations, a place designed to eliminate the need for families to make binary choices (such as online or in-person schooling). With a goal of optimizing learning for students by creating personal learning journeys, our virtual high school is one where different instructional modalities -- online, in-person, residential -- are embraced; one where the goal of school isn’t to be online, but to provide an unrivaled education for our students, no matter what their preferences or specifications may be.
Because Dwight Global Online School has so many years of experience in online teaching, and because we’re part of the Dwight School family, our students get the best of both worlds: the 150-year-old academic tradition of the Dwight name and all that it delivers, including robust Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, and the innovation and flexibility of the best educational technology tools.
Emergency learning vs. online learning
When schools were forced to quickly close and pivot to virtual learning back in March, districts rolled out online options to help meet the needs of every student. Because of the rush to get things up and running, though, many teachers didn’t receive the training they needed, while many students and families were left without the access and tools required to make online learning successful. What happened in spring 2020, then, was not representative of online learning, despite the absolute best of intentions by educators.
The rush and panic that schools and families felt at the end of the 2020 school year has resulted in a widespread misunderstanding of virtual school. A high quality online education should include any or all of the following:
- A blended learning approach. At Dwight Global, for example, we mix synchronous learning (real-time, online, video-based classrooms) with asynchronous learning (recorded lectures and seminars and other materials).
- Flipped classrooms, where students are expected to watch their lectures before their scheduled class time, so that seminar time can be used for active discussion, collaboration, and peer interaction.
- College-style scheduling, with seminars that meet 2-3 times per week rather than every day, and a full complement of off-line work that students are expected to complete on their own time (readings, problem sets, labs, etc.).
- A thriving school community, where students feel supported and connected to each other and to their teachers, no matter where they live.
- Options for in-person events throughout the school year. For instance, Dwight Global students get a virtual passport to all Dwight campuses throughout the world.
It’s no surprise more families are exploring options for established online schools as a result of the pandemic. A virtual high school enables your child to complete a rigorous academic schedule from anywhere -- including, of course, the safety and comfort of your own home -- without sacrificing a quality education.
What to do if you’re considering a virtual high school for your family
Like many families, you might be exploring new options for the fall. If you’re considering an online school for your middle or high schooler, ask yourself the following:
- Could my child benefit from flexible scheduling without sacrificing quality? This is particularly helpful for students who dedicate lots of time to their passions, whether it’s sports or performing arts or anything in between, but it’s also crucial for students who may have previously struggled with the early wakeup calls of a traditional high school, or who have health or personal concerns.
- Does my child have a unique passion that drives them? At a traditional high school, coursework options are fairly limited. At a renowned virtual high school like Dwight Global, a variety of courses help students with diverse interests and ideas challenge themselves, inform themselves, and grow academically in ways they might not have otherwise.
- Does my child approach learning differently than her peers? With custom supports and a strong mentor network, students at a virtual high school like Dwight Global can lean on a vast support system that’s dedicated to ensuring they grow and thrive.
- Is my child ready to learn new skills outside of the classroom that will better prepare him for college and beyond? A virtual high school offers more than a diploma. Skills like time management and preparation will help your teenager learn how to take agency over their own learning — which will set them up for college and beyond.
- Above all else — am I concerned about my family’s safety this fall? Every parent and every teacher is doing the best they can with the tools and options available for a safe return to school this fall. And we all agree that safety is the priority. An online school that has a proven ability to reach students using educational technology tools in advanced ways can mitigate many of the fears parents are facing today.
The past several months have demonstrated what a virtual high school can do for students, when it’s led by experts in online teaching. Learn more at www.dwight.global.