In an era when technology is on the rise and many external factors are convincing parents to look for options beyond traditional in-person education, learning via computer is becoming increasingly popular.
However, it can be difficult to understand the intricacies of online education. Many terms get thrown around about online learning, sometimes interchangeably and sometimes with different, nuanced meanings — cyber school, virtual learning, remote classes, online school, and more. This article aims to help clear your understanding of online education opportunities.
Two of the most common forms of online education are cyber schooling and remote learning. In fact, in 2020, the number of students enrolled in Pennsylvania cyber charter schools grew to 60,890 students — a 59% jump from the enrollment numbers in 2019. Similarly, many students had their first experiences with remote learning in 2020, as schools shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Given the popularity of both cyber schooling and remote learning and the many apparent similarities between the two, it can be hard to parse out their differences and decide which form of learning is best for your student.
What Is Cyber School?
Cyber school, also called virtual school, is a method of education in which students can take all of their required courses online and at home. Students can earn their diplomas without ever having to enter a traditional brick-and-mortar school. Cyber schools can either be public or private. If public, they are typically cyber charter schools.
Cyber school offers excellent flexibility. Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA), a public cyber charter school in Pennsylvania, offers flexible scheduling and a customizable curriculum. In traditional schools, students must sit in a classroom for a specific amount of time, all learning the exact same thing. At CCA, students have flexibility in determining their schedules and can personalize their education. CCA is able to provide these benefits because it is a cyber school.
What Is Remote Learning?
Remote learning, sometimes called distance learning, is essentially traditional schooling done over a computer. While cyber school has specific programs and infrastructures especially designed for online education, remote learning often tries to emulate the physical classroom.
Existing, traditional public and private schools typically offer remote learning as an additional instructional option. Remote learning follows regular class schedules, the only difference being that classes take place in an online video conference tool instead of in an in-person classroom. Similarly, remote learning follows roughly the same curriculum as in-person classes, with the instructor teaching the same broad content to every student.
Though not always the case, some schools only use remote learning when traditional learning isn’t possible. Many students experienced this phenomenon in 2020, when schools shut down because of the pandemic and remote learning became the norm. Some states have also begun allowing public schools to use remote learning in place of shutting down schools for inclement weather. Doing so enables schools to count the remote day as an instructional day rather than losing that day.
Cyber School Pros and Cons
Now that we’ve defined cyber schooling and remote learning, it’s time to get into the pros and cons of each to determine which option is best for your child. Cyber schooling, especially through CCA, can be a great educational option. Let’s look at the pros of cyber school:
Compare remote versus virtual learning by first considering the advantages of cyber school:
- Students have options for individualized education programs: CCA works with students and their families to customize a curriculum that is best for them. Furthermore, CCA offers personalized Honors programs and special education programs. One of the greatest benefits of cyber schooling is a customizable curriculum.
- There are public cyber schooling options: Unlike private schools, public cyber charter schools like CCA are available at no cost to families while still offering a customizable curriculum. Similarly, unlike homeschooling, where parents must be an instructor if their student wants to learn at home, CCA employs state-certified teachers to provide instruction.
- The school hours are flexible: With cyber schooling, students are not restricted to learning in a certain place or at a certain time. As long as students log in during the school day, their school hours are flexible. This allows families to fit school into their schedules rather than work around it.
- Students can meet teachers and peers through online forums: Even though cyber schooling students learn from home, they can still meet with teachers and other students through instant messages, emails, voice chats, and video conferences.
- Students use their time more efficiently: In a traditional school environment, students have to be in the building for a specific amount of time — whether they are actually learning or just doing busywork is irrelevant. With cyber schooling, students have the flexibility to use their time more efficiently, working at their own pace to complete their schoolwork and lessons.
Keep these factors in mind when it comes to cyber school:
- Fewer opportunities for in-person interactions: While cyber schooling provides plenty of opportunities for peer interaction via online video conferencing tools, online chats are not the same as face-to-face interactions. To counterbalance this, CCA hosts field trips, encourages participation in community organizations, and makes it easy to schedule around sports practices.
- There are more opportunities for distraction: In a traditional classroom, a teacher can typically cut down on distractions and keep a child’s focus. At home, students have a lot more freedom and could become distracted by things such as phones, pets, siblings, and more.
- Your student is reliant on technology: While generally dependable, technology still sometimes fails when we most need it. The Internet can go out, a computer can break, and chargers can go missing. When your student’s technology stops working, so does their education.
Remote Learning Pros and Cons
There are many similarities between remote learning and cyber schooling, most notably that they both take place online. Public schools may offer remote learning at no cost, facilitating interaction with fellow students through video conferencing tools. Remote learning may also limit face-to-face interaction and provide opportunities for distraction. However, there are also many differences between remote learning and cyber schooling. Here are the pros and cons specific to remote learning:
The benefits of remote learning include:
- A more traditional class structure: Whether or not this is a pro or a con depends on the student. While some students might prefer flexible scheduling, others might thrive while going to school for a set number of hours, learning alongside other classmates. For students who want or need more structure, remote learning could be the solution.
- A more comfortable classroom: Remote learning is like traditional learning but at home. As a result, students used to sitting on hard chairs and following strict dress codes can instead learn in their bedrooms or on their sofas, wearing comfortable clothes and having snacks and drinks throughout class time.
Remote learning can come with these drawbacks:
- Very little flexibility in scheduling: In general, remote learning follows a similar schedule to traditional learning. Students must be online at specific times for classes, usually for a certain amount of time. The most flexibility offered by remote classes is that there is no need for a commute.
- Students are reliant on technology: Much like cyber schooling, remote learning relies fully on technology to function. However, while cyber schools will typically have resources and lesson plans in place that students can follow if technology unexpectedly fails, remote learning may not have these elements. Schools that offer remote learning split their focus between traditional and remote students.
Cyber School or Remote Learning — Which Is Right for Your Student?
Cyber school and remote learning both take place online, but that’s about where the similarities end. Cyber school offers curricula developed specifically for online learning, with lessons, schedules, activities, and more designed with online, at-home students in mind. Remote learning, on the other hand, is offered by existing brick-and-mortar schools and follows the same rigid format as traditional in-person learning, except that it takes place online.
Both have their pros and cons, but here at CCA, we believe that our cyber schooling programs could be a great choice for your child. Cyber schooling at CCA offers flexible scheduling and a customizable curriculum, both of which work to personalize your student’s education. To learn more about CCA and how it could be a great fit for your child’s education, contact us today.