Cyberschool administrators agree that self-discipline from students and involvement from parents are keys to success. "They have to be risk takers and love technology," says Willoway's Hale, noting that students who come from conventional schools often have more difficulty adjusting than experienced home-schoolers.
Questions to Ask
Anyone in the market for a cyberschool should consider a variety of factors before making the decision:
- How long has the cyberschool been operating? There will always be technical glitches, but new ventures are particularly prone to them. "It's taken us three years of head-butting to make this work," says Internet Home School's McCollum.
- What are the technical requirements? The basics generally include a computer with a 100 MHz Pentium processor and a modem speed of at least 33.6 Kbps, with 56K preferred. Other requirements vary.
- What is the curriculum, and how is it delivered? Mechanisms for dispensing assignments vary, as does the nature of the curriculum. The degree of reliance on books and printed materials versus online resources may also differ.
- Who are my teachers? Be sure they have previous experience in real classrooms.
- How does the child have contact with the teacher and how often? Cyberadministrators stress the importance of frequent, real-time interaction.
- Is there a sense of community? Some cyberschools operate on an independent-study model. Others integrate learners with classmates through email, instant messaging and/or video. Look for reference to software programs such as whiteboard for collaborative work.