What Ontario Parents Should Know About Online Schools

online school video chat
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This September felt different. As usual, kids went back to the classroom to kickstart their academic year. But with the long shadow of COVID still stretched ahead, it felt less like a joyous return to learning and more like an anxious re-entry into uncertainty.

So, understandably, several parents are looking into extending their kids’ online education. Some are doing so for safety reasons – they prefer the safety of a contactless alternative. And others are considering online school because they saw its benefits first-hand – they witnessed their kids thrive in the past year-and-a-half of virtual learning.

But how much do you know about online schools? Most Ontarian kids have experience with the online learning offered by public schools, but what about dedicated online high schools in Ontario? Below, let’s answer some common questions parents have about Ontario online courses and schools.

Is All Online Learning the Same?

Not all online learning is the same. The public schools’ shift to online learning was a response to the pandemic here in Ontario. As such, they had little time to work out the kinks, and teachers unfamiliar with virtual teaching had to adjust abruptly.

Compare this to a good private online high school, which has honed its learning model and digital infrastructure over many years. The teachers are well-versed in teaching online, and the schools take special steps to support students in their academic success.

Even among private online schools, differences exist. At a basic level, an online high school should be accredited, Ministry inspected, and authorized to grant credits toward an Ontario Secondary School Diploma. But you should demand more: look for an online high school with passionate teachers, happy students, robust support systems, and credits accepted by universities and colleges.

Download Ontario’s list of private secondary schools to determine which e-schools offer credits toward the OSSD (column F in the document).

What Are the Benefits of Online Schools?

To save time, let’s leave aside the fact that online schools are a contactless alternative for COVID-concerned families (addressed above). What are some of the other benefits of online schools?

Here are some commonly cited advantages of online high schools:

  • Self-paced learning: the self-paced model of an online school allows students to allocate their time according to personal needs. If they need longer to understand a particular unit, they can take longer.
  • Flexibility: Since online learning is self-paced with variable start and end dates, students get a flexible education. They can pursue extracurricular interests, travel with family or keep a schedule more in line with their learning preferences.
  • Relieved Social Pressure: Social anxiety and peer pressure can disrupt the learning process for many students. Virtual schools alleviate some of that pressure.
  • Convenience: Some parents and students prefer to forego the morning and afternoon commutes.

There are other benefits (a tech-minded approach to learning, 24/7 tutoring in some cases), but the points above are the main ones.

Is Online Learning for Everyone?

“Is online learning right for my kid” is a question that comes up frequently. The answer is – of course –“no.”Online learning isn’t for everyone. Some students thrive with structure, set hours, a teacher’s physical presence, and frequent social outlets.

But enough students benefit from online learning that it should be a larger part of the public discussion around education. Brick-and-mortar schools shouldn’t be the default. Talk with your kid about online schools and earnestly weigh the pros and cons for their individual learning style.

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