Virtual Alternatives to Traditional Schools

Ryan Hunter

August 25, 2020

Over the last two decades, more parents have turned to virtual alternatives to traditional schools to educate their children. As officials debate reopening schools and anxious parents consider their children’s’ safety in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are investigating online education options.

The transition to remote learning has been a challenge for educators and parents alike. Not every parent can stay home with their children, and many teachers face a learning curve in online classroom instruction that can impact learning. In the current environment, virtual alternatives to traditional schools can help augment online education. 

Virtual schooling platforms encourage children to learn at their own pace, regardless of their geography — a vital advantage for those in rural areas or who need greater versatility in their academic program.

Parents have numerous platforms to choose from, and as online learning becomes more prevalent, more possibilities will emerge.

Cyber Charter Schools

Cyber charter schools are non-profit, taxpayer-funded public charter schools that conduct virtual classes. These platforms are tuition-free, provide students with laptops, and offer reimbursement for internet connection, allowing students to complete their courses online. Additionally, educators for cyber charter schools are trained to instruct online classes. However, class sizes are often large, making it difficult for students to receive one-on-one attention.

Springboard

Springboard focuses on parent-assisted learning, specifically for elementary-age children. Before the pandemic, it provided training workshops for parents to help them establish goals and study reading concepts. 

The methodology used by this virtual alternative to virtual school allows parents and other relatives to practice with their children regardless of language or literacy barriers. The platform also developed an app so parents staying home with their children can access resources to assist with their child’s educational needs.

Khan Academy

Many students and parents have used Khan Academy as a free resource to supplement learning, rather than a full-on virtual alternative to traditional schools. But since the pandemic, this platform’s traffic has tripled. 

Khan Academy records students’ progress as they complete assignments and respond to answers across a variety of subjects. Educators and parents can view this information and pinpoint areas of improvement. 

Micro-schools

Homeschoolcoop2020.com and Natural Creativity are two virtual alternatives to traditional schools that center on self-directed learning. While these platforms have primarily focused on homeschooled students in the past, more parents are turning to them as supplementary online classes.

Building Assets, Reducing Risks (BARR)

In April, one survey discovered that 40% of teenaged students weren’t attending online classes. The academic disruption caused by the pandemic is particularly detrimental for this age group, which can quickly fall behind.

BARR has been a viable program for at-risk high school students even before the pandemic. It focuses on cultivating a relationship between educators and students by employing weekly meetings between teachers and counselors to create a strategy to better support at-risk students. During the pandemic, BARR has transitioned to online classrooms and meetings through Zoom.