Parents have known set criteria for evaluating an offline school, which may reject a child in the end. Contrary to this approach, online schools are easy to enrol in, but come with their own set of challenges. A thorough evaluation will help you choose the best, and ensure you are making the right decision for your child.
Do all the online schools look the same? Do all of them state that they are:
- The best replacement to home schools
- Have the best online curriculum
- Are the best online high school
- Have the best online high school classes
- Have the best online high school programs
- Have the best online school programs
- Are the best virtual schools
- Are the best home schools online
It is understood that in this era of hyper-marketing, and tweaking of messaging, it is difficult to decide on a trusted online school for your child’s education, and ultimately their future. Additionally, at the pre-admission stage, it may also be difficult to know whether the information provided is true, or the curriculum elements are really those which are delivered.
To help you decide on your decision to choose an online school, given below is a framework of topics that should form part of your evaluation criterion list.
An online school’s accreditation is an assurance that your child receives:
- Standardised education
- Tested and designed education
- Recognisable education
An accreditation also implies that the online school is responsible and accountable from a third party, or an independent body for its student outcomes. An accreditation should be the first and most critical filter that one should use to decide on an online school – the accreditation will impact your child’s future schooling options, and future higher-education avenues.
There are various bodies which provide accreditation for online American, British, IB, CBSE, IGCSE and other curricula across the world.
Make sure you go through the accreditation body websites to understand the course content to be delivered and request the online school’s admissions support teams to provide you with relevant accreditation evidence should the need arise.
The Online school credentials
Every online school needs to be registered or recognised as a credible educational institution, which has produced stupendous student outcomes in a consistent manner. The assessment that needs to be carried out here is whether the years a student would spend at an online school would be considered as credible education years by higher-ed or other educational institutions, and will they result in desired student outcomes.
This may be assessed by asking the online school admissions team to connect you with a past student, or help you track a past student’s education trajectory. Check for online discussions forums on online schools under evaluation which would help you assess the schools under your consideration set
Non-Academic ancillary services
Online / virtual / digital schooling has an inherent heavy reliance on the tech elements for dissemination and assessment elements of the learning process. At no point would you want to find you or your child scrambling for help should the:
- The school video platform stop working for you
- LMS becomes inaccessible to you while chasing a homework / assessment deadline
- Class teacher is unreachable when you want to schedule a discussion about your child’s immediate issues
Moreover, the start of the online schooling process can be overwhelming for both the student and the parent, and considerable hand holding may be required from the school’s end to make the student and parent comfortable around tech systems and general pedagogical practices for e-learning platforms.
Make sure you are fully aware of the school’s processes in student on-boarding, issue escalation and turn-around time for enabling tech platforms.
Non-Academic ancillary services
In any educational setups, different students have different needs, and in scenarios where one may require special interventions, provisions such as tutoring, remedial sessions, personalised coaches, counsellors, robustness of parent community help stakeholders cope up with children’s issues and tackle them effectively.
The lack of any of the above elements can make the schooling process sub-optimal for your child and affect long-term outcomes. During the admissions process, ensure you have required discussions and access to observing such interventions, which should help allay any concerns on the support system available for your child on the academic front.
As in any educational setup, the faculty credentials and background have a direct impact on the learning pedagogy, and thereby the student learning process.
The added requirement in an online process is the need to have a faculty which is abreast of latest educational practices aligned with the online mode of teaching on e-learning platforms. There are more than enough elements of the online school platform that are not present in the physical classroom.
Hence, the parents, through conversations with admission teams, should request for information on faculty qualification and training on online e-learning platforms.
Acceptability and transfer
Complete e-education in India is still a new concept – at some point, you may be required to shift your ward to a physical school. At that moment, it may be a heartbreak moment to find out that the score, results, and grade outcomes of your child earned at the online school are not acceptable at the physical school.
At this point even the accreditation comes into play – parents need to be completely aware of the transfer process, required documents, alignment to accreditations and any other details that the online school should make you aware of.
Moreover, the situation will be further profound, when the child is applying for higher education, as that may require a robustness in documentation and compliance to university standards.
The off-classroom elements for a child are pivotal in their overall development and complement a child’s education through social conditioning and application of concepts.
The course should be designed in such a way that it encourages students to partake in off-classroom activities that may promote:
- Physical activities
- Interaction with peers
- Celebration of festivals
- Understanding the culture and one’s roots
While the above evaluation criteria are non-exhaustive, they are nonetheless critical to your evaluation of online schools for your child. Do keep in mind that the admissions team at the online school will be your best guide for obtaining all information related to the above metrics.