A Parent’s Guide to Online Learning in K-12 Schools

Online learning
A Parent’s Guide to Online Learning in K-12 Schools

Table of Contents

Did you know that more than half of parents still believe it’s unsafe for their children to return to school? With COVID-19 still having a significant impact despite vaccinations, many parents fear for their children’s health.

Fortunately, online learning is an option parents can utilise. With this option, your children can attend school from wherever they have an internet connection.

Female student learning on mobile device

Education is changing as online distance learning is becoming a more popular choice for many parents. In the past, children were forced to attend physical schools if they wanted to receive a good education.

Now parents are able to choose from various options, including independent schools. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about education online in K-12 schools.

What Is Online Learning?

It’s a type of education using the internet to deliver course materials to students. With online learning, students are able to learn from home at any time that is available to them.

Learning online is popular among parents and students because of the flexibility it provides them. Online education is also much more affordable than traditional school.

How is it Different Between Homeschooling, At-Home Learning, and Traditional Schooling?

With traditional schooling, your children attend school every day and sit in a classroom. This basic concept hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years.

With homeschooling, children learn at home; however, parents act as the teacher. While they may use some type of curriculum, it’s different from an online school.

At-home learning became the preferred term during COVID-19 lockdowns in Australia. It was a catch-all term to describe any form of education that was occurring at a student’s home (as opposed to at-school).

Student-conducting-science-lesson-during-at-home-learning

Students still have a class and teacher; it’s simply over the internet. In Australia, the official term for online learning in the K-12 space is distance education.

History of Online Learning and When It Commenced in Australia

Because of Australia’s distances and widely spread population, distance learning got an early start in this country. Distance learning in Australia began to take place in the early 1900s.

However, at this time, you just needed a reliable postal service. This allowed children who weren’t able to make it to a physical school due to distance the ability to still receive an education.

Distance learning continued to grow and began to become more available with the advent of the internet. While there were a few educational offerings that were available through the internet in the 1990s, it wasn’t until the growth of broadband in Australia that online students became more numerous. During COVID-19, the number of students engaging in online learning has increased significantly.

Boy-student-engaged-in-distance-learning-on-laptop

Who Is Eligible for Learning in this Modality?

Eligibility is directly linked to state government legislation. Each state has particular rules and regulations around eligibility for online learning.

New South Wales

With the recent removal of residential day obligations for students enrolled in non-government distance education, the criteria to attend an online school is fairly easy to navigate. For government distance education, a number of criteria apply and can be found on the Department of Education website.

Western Australia

There are a number of criteria that must be met for the Western Australian government to grant full time enrolment to a distance education student in either government or non-government distance education. For example, physical distance from a school comes into play with variations that need to be met. Whether or not you’re involved with elite performance including sport, theatre or music are also key, and even living abroad for a temporary period is a factor to consider when looking for online opportunities.

Tasmania

Similarly to Western Australia, there are a number of conditions needing to be met for families to join a distance education provider in Tasmania. Extended national or international travel, medical issues including mental health disorders or elite performance are all considered suitable reasons for enrolling with an online education provider. In addition to this, you will also need to have a residential address in Tasmania.

Primary-student-doing-online-learning

Queensland

Of all states in Australia, Queensland’s criteria is by far the most accommodating. There are almost no limitations on enrolling and accessing distance learning. With that in mind, the number of online learning providers is numerous, so sifting through the crowd to find one that suits your child’s needs is likely to be the biggest challenge you’ll face.

Who Is Online Learning Suitable For?

Not every student is going to be able to do well in an online environment. Some students thrive within a traditional classroom setting, and that is the only place they can learn.

There are a few qualities that point to the fact that learning online could be the right choice for your child.

Computer Savvy

If your child has basic computer knowledge, they’re already halfway there. If they have previously taken classes online, they are even more prepared to learn in this environment.

Proactive Learner

This type of education requires self-discipline and motivation. Students need to be open to engaging in their coursework when they want to learn and not when a set schedule calls for it. Having said that, creating a schedule that best suits the individual’s needs is integral to success through distance education.

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Good Time Management Skills

Students need to be able to manage their time. They will not be in a classroom with a set schedule, and they must be able to manage their time to make sure they’re getting the most out of their courses.

The Desire for a Challenge

Many students are attracted to online school because of the challenges it presents. Distance learning allows students to work at their own pace and test their own intellectual abilities all the while encouraging them to grow in maturity.

Where Can You Complete Online Learning?

One of the best things about online delivery is that you can complete it from anywhere. Whether you’re travelling or overseas, your child’s education doesn’t need to get interrupted. Approved providers of distance education strive to make their programs available to anyone with an internet connection, however some states have restrictions based on a student’s residential address.

When Do Students Start Online?

Many students start online education in primary school, and there are also online programs that start as early as prep/foundation. In the primary years, it might be better described as blended learning, as students learn both online and offline.

Year-2-boy-student-doing-a-history-&-geography-online-lesson

Online delivery is very popular with high school students, including those looking to further their education in preparation for University, giving them a head start to independence.

How Online Learning Works

Students can learn anywhere at a time that suits them. They still have coursework with due dates; however, they can have the luxury of allocating different subjects to different parts of their day to best meet these deadlines.

Students can watch videos of their teachers with the ability to rewind and pause. This is a great tool to have for students who are struggling to understand a concept. It allows them to learn at their pace and not get left behind because the rest of the class has already moved on.

Benefits of Online Learning

The positives of an online education are becoming more and more enticing for students and parents who are interested in a more flexible approach. Below are some of the benefits of this modality:

Accessibility

Students can continue their education while travelling or overseas. They’re not limited by location and can complete classes from any place with an internet connection due to mobile platforms like the Canvas LMS.

Students can also complete their online coursework at the same time as their siblings. This is a great benefit for students who have a lot of siblings that they need to factor into their schedules.

Two-sisters-doing-their-online-learning-next-to-each-other

Flexibility

Students have the freedom to complete their coursework in a variety of ways to benefit their learning style. They can fit their online courses around family and extra curricular activities.

This is a great option for students who aren’t able to sit in a classroom and don’t want to complete tasks that are set to a strict schedule.

Choice

Students can choose when they want to complete their coursework. They can work through the curriculum at their own pace and don’t have to feel pressured to get through it along with the rest of their class.

It’s a great option for students with atypical abilities because it doesn’t require them to sit in a classroom for a set number of hours; they can complete their allocated coursework from home in their own time.

Support

Students also have access to online teachers. This gives them an opportunity to ask questions, understand the course and ask for more resources to help them understand the material without fear of judgement from other students.

Female-online-teacher-talking-to-an-online-student

Enhanced Time Management Skills

Students who are engaged with distance education need to manage their own time. They are required to set their own schedule, complete assignments, and study for exams. Working out how to manage their time gives students a sense of responsibility, and it is a skill that will serve them well in life.

Free from Distractions

Online students don’t have to leave their houses to go to class. They don’t have to deal with the struggles that can come along with a regular school education; they can just focus on their individual coursework.

How Much Does Online Learning Cost?

Costs vary depending on the school and year group. Some year groups require you to buy textbooks, while others have the required material available online.

It’s important to research the cost of on campus learning vs. online learning. For example, the costs for students attending Australian Christian College are based on their year of study, and as they reach secondary school, the cost is also dependent on whether they choose an ATAR pathway. You will also need to consider costs for technology and electives that your child might want to do.

What Common Challenges Come With Learning Online?

Online learning is a great choice for a lot of students. However, this type of learning comes with its own set of challenges as well.

Self Motivation

Students need the ability to be self-motivated. They will need to set their own schedule and do the work.

Social Aspect

Students are limited to communicating with their teachers and fellow students via the internet. They lose the aspect of face-to-face communication and have to rely on emails, Canvas LMS, and teleconferences to communicate.

Time Management Skills

Online students need good time management skills. They will have to organise their own time, and they won’t have a teacher to tell them when to do their work.

Student-referring-to-a-text-book-while-writing-assignment-on-his-laptop

Learning Environment

It might be hard for some students to remain in an online environment for a long period of time. They need to be comfortable with technology because they can be in front of their computer for hours at a time.

Online Learning Best Practices

Just because students are learning online doesn’t mean it should be less effective than a traditional classroom. In many ways, it can be quite the opposite. The following are ways you can ensure students are learning as efficiently as possible:

Create a Learning Space

Students should have a designated place to learn that is quiet and private. There are a few other qualities your child’s learning space should have.

Primary-student-working-in-a-home-learning-space

Distraction Free

Have you ever tried to focus when other people in the house are being loud and pets are wandering in and out?

It’s difficult for an adult and even more difficult for children. Set up a space that’s distraction-free for your child to complete their coursework.

Privacy

Students should have a place they can go to if they need time to focus. They don’t have to have complete privacy, but they shouldn’t have to worry about someone walking in on them.

Plenty of Light

Natural light is great for students. It encourages wakefulness throughout the day, encouraging a more focused work ethic.

Good Desk and Chair

Your child should have a comfortable place to sit and a good desk to work at. Their computer monitor should be at eye level, and their chair should be ergonomic for numerous hours of continuous use.

Install Parental Software

What is parental control software? It’s a program you can install on your child’s computer that will help ensure they’re not accessing content they shouldn’t be.

With some software, you can even choose what type of sites they can access. This can help prevent them from wandering off and surfing the internet when they should be focusing on school.

Parental control software can also be used to track your child’s online activity. This is helpful if you don’t want your child to spend hours online.

Have a Plan for the Week

Students should create a plan for the week. This will help them organise their day, so they know when they should be working on what. This is a good way to help them stay focused and on track.

It will also help keep them on track with their coursework. There are a few things you can do to help create a plan for the week and follow it.

Create a Task List

Students should create a task list of the steps they need to complete. This will help them stay organised and focused. Luckily, the Learning Management System (LMS) used at Australian Christian College provides a comprehensive to do list. This is called Canvas and has been used by leading Universities to cater to their online cohorts.

Stick to the Learning Calendar

Canvas compiles all assignments, quizzes and daily tasks into the student calendar. This is a helpful tool to ensure you are keeping on track for what deadlines you have coming up.

Set Daily Goals

Students should set daily goals for themselves. This will help motivate them to get their work done. It will also make it easier to figure out what they need to work on that day.

Teach Time Management Skills

Teach students about time management so they can be more effective in managing their own time. Help them create a schedule and set goals for completing tasks.

Students should be encouraged to develop good habits and habits that promote learning. This will keep them on task, motivated, and focused.

Take Time to Know Canvas Well

Students need to understand how to use Canvas. This is especially important if this platform is new to them. They need to understand how everything works and how they can get help if they get stuck. We have a technical support team available from 7am to 7pm AEST on Monday - Friday. You also have access to your subject teacher who can help with Canvas as well.

Know Teacher Expectations

It’s important that students have a basic understanding of the course objectives. They should be able to explain what they are learning in the course.

Students should also be able to express what type of work they need to do and how much work is expected of them. This will help them stay up to date on what is necessary.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communicate with your child’s teacher. If you know your child has a hard time focusing or managing their time, ask the teacher for advice on what you can do to help. Most of the teachers have been teaching via distance learning for some time, so will have practical skills that you can implement.

Communicating about your child’s progress will help you know if there are any hurdles or roadblocks. Your child’s teacher will then be able to assist.

Actively Participate

If you are a parent who does not actively participate in your child’s learning, then your child will not be getting the most out of their education. Many teachers and educational platforms encourage parent participation.

This is because parents can provide support, encouragement, advice, and so much more. If you don’t actively participate in your child’s course, it’s likely they will not be working toward their full potential.

Teachers also want to work with you because it allows them to better understand your child.

It’s also important for you to encourage your child to actively participate in any conversations on forums and encourage them to ask questions as well as review their course materials.

Take Breaks

Taking breaks gives you time to revive and re-energize. Prior to taking a break, you should have a goal in mind. After that, you should set another one. Breaks are important and can help you accomplish great things.

It’s also important for you to consider your child’s breaks if they can’t do it on their own. If your child struggles with motivation, taking breaks may be hard for them. You will want to ask them about their feelings and find a solution that makes sense for them.

Secondary-boy-student engaged-in-online-learning

Online Learning in the Future

In the future, online learning will play a larger role in the education system. As technology advances, students will be able to interact with teachers and classmates, making digital learning even more interactive.

The role of online education has changed the way people view education. It has allowed the education system to evolve, deliver more interactive course content, and give students more choices. As online learning becomes more popular, students from all walks of life will be able to access it.

Why Parents Should Consider Online Learning

Online learning is a great choice for many parents who want their children to receive a quality education. The flexibility, convenience, and quality of online delivery are hard to match.

Online learning has many benefits. However, remember that while some children thrive in distance learning settings, others will do better in a traditional classroom and still others will benefit from blended learning.

Making the right choice for your child’s education is imperative. Are you ready to enrol your child in distance learning? Contact your state’s Australian Christian College program to enquire about our distance learning programs.

Queensland
https://www.acc.edu.au/moreton/distance-education

New South Wales
https://www.acc.edu.au/marsdenpark/distance-education/

Western Australia
https://www.acc.edu.au/southlands/distance-education/

Tasmania
https://www.acc.edu.au/launceston/distance-education/

Jeremy Kwok

Jeremy Kwok

Jeremy Kwok grew up in Sydney before moving to the United States for tertiary studies. Jeremy completed the BA, MA (History), and MDiv degrees before returning to Australia with his wife Debbie to have two children. He works for the Australian Christian College Group developing online curriculum and is an Apple Distinguished Educator.

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