Online Learning: The Virtual High School Difference
- Posted in
- on February 7, 2022.
Looking to find out what makes Virtual High School different from other remote learning options? With over 20 years of experience designing online courses, Virtual High School has developed a unique approach to teaching in the online environment. In that time, we’ve learned a tremendous amount about what works well and what doesn’t. Let’s dive a little further into the strategies and support systems that we’ve found make all the difference in remote learning!
What’s the Difference between Digitization and Digitalization?
Digitization refers to taking an offline resource, such as a textbook, and simply converting it to a digital format to be used online. Digitalization is the process of creating a digital resource for the purpose of online consumption. This distinction is critical when highlighting the difference between the experiences of some remote learning options and the experiences of VHS students.
VHS courses are not textbooks or other offline resources made to fit into a digital framework. The instructional design used in VHS courses and our approach to teaching have been forged out of 20 years of experience in creating online high school courses. They have been thoughtfully considered, developed, and improved upon over time. VHS courses have been optimized for the virtual learning environment, and VHS teachers are experienced in teaching online. Together, they create meaningful and memorable learning experiences for our students.
Our school and courses are inspected by the Ontario Ministry of Education, meet the standards for the Ontario curriculum, and result in the same credits on student transcripts that can be earned in traditional, physical schools. Our teachers are certified by the Ontario College of Teachers (or the equivalent in other provinces and countries). You can feel confident that our courses and teachers will provide students with the necessary skills and academic background for success in the workplace, post-secondary institutions, and beyond.
What’s an Asynchronous Learning Model?
An asynchronous learning model is any model that doesn’t follow a typical semester schedule. At Virtual High School, this means that students can register at anytime and move through the material at a pace they determine for themselves. We understand that time constraints are problematic for those with busy schedules, work, extracurricular activities, and other commitments. That is precisely why we do not have, and have never had, sign-on schedules or live classes in our courses. Students can choose how they spend their time and work around their other commitments. They can choose to spend less time on lessons and concepts they understand and more time on those they find challenging. We often find that this approach results in better learning outcomes for students.
Why is Accessibility Important?
At Virtual High School, we understand that not all students learn in the same way, which is why we employ a variety of teaching strategies in our courses. VHS courses meet or exceed provincial accessibility standards, so all students have the same access to our learning materials. We have tools such as ReadSpeaker, a text-reading device for individuals that have more auditory-based learning styles, built right into our Learning Management System. All images contain alt tags to describe them in text. We have also developed an integrated Pacing Tool to assist students in developing time management skills and meeting their personal deadlines.
In terms of financial accessibility, we understand that there can be economic barriers to private education. To make our courses more accessible to everyone, the John Smallwood Bursary (full tuition for one course) is awarded monthly to a deserving student on the basis of financial need. Click here for more information on how to apply.
What are the Benefits of a Learning Management System?
Having to log in to various apps and platforms, navigate between tabs and windows, click through PowerPoint presentations, and attend virtual meetings can create undue frustration and barriers. This ultimately distracts students from their ability to get through content and master concepts. The fewer of these barriers that exist, the more positive the experience for the student and the more of their energy they can devote to learning. At Virtual High School, the entire course, including quizzes, tests, and the final exam are completed in a single, secure place—the Brightspace by D2L Learning Management System (LMS). There is a single sign-on process. Once a student logs in with their username and password, there are no additional apps or webpages to open in order to access their course content, assignments, and tests. All VHS accounts contain a Student Handbook with navigation tips and training, making the transition to an LMS seamless.
What About the Social Aspects of School?
VHS courses contain discussion boards where students can collaborate, reflect on their own understanding, and provide peer-to-peer review of each other’s understanding of concepts. We encourage students to regularly correspond with their teachers through email whenever they want clarification on course content or assignments. There is also an entire staff of administrative professionals available to help students via phone call, email, or live chat if they have questions about school policies and procedures.
Isolation from our communities has led to challenges with mental health. We know that students need to have safe spaces to communicate with one another in non-academic contexts to support their mental health. To combat this feeling of isolation, we host FUN community activities for VHS students. We have meet-and-greets, a student book club, and trivia competitions, to name a few. We also host special interest events with virtual guests. As a school with students from all over the world, our virtual events give students the chance to interact with people from different backgrounds, make friends with similar interests, and experience other cultures.
With Virtual High School, remote learning can be a positive experience. Through years of experience, we have found ways to leverage the strengths of the platform and the incredible technology at our fingertips.
Contact us today to ask us more about the VHS difference.