We all know that getting a good education opens up many opportunities for the future. Unfortunately, the structure of traditional schools sometimes results in students having to put their outside interests and goals on hold during the school year. But with online school, students gain the flexibility to create a schedule that accommodates the things that matter most to them. Online school students can get a great education while also achieving their dreams.
As a new school year begins, we talked with two online high school students about their experiences with Connections Academy®. Carlie Steele is an eleventh grade student who switched to online school seeking an advanced curriculum and a more flexible schedule so she could continue working on her nonprofit organization. Carson Baker is a ninth grade student who attends online school to accommodate the travel and training he needs to become a professional tennis player. Below, they share their insights and tips for making a strong start in online school.
Q: What are some misconceptions about going back to school online and how would you address them?
Carson: People think online school classes are easier and that you don’t learn as much as you would at a bricks-and-mortar school. When other students say that, I ask them what math class they are in. Then I tell them about my math class. I explain that [with online school] you can learn at your own speed. For me, that means I can advance faster in math than I could in a brick[s]-and-mortar school.
Carlie: One myth that I’ve heard about the first day of online school is that students are just completing their classes and are by themselves, which is definitely not the case! I love the first day because you get to meet all of your teachers through welcome calls and WebMail messages. You get to tell them a little bit about yourself and what kind of things you’re looking forward to this year! On the first day, especially as a new student, it’s comforting to know you have a support system and a team working towards your success.
Q: How does going back to school online differ from traditional school?
Carlie: One of my favorite parts about online school is that your day starts whenever you want. Whether you’re an early riser, late sleeper, or you’ve had a busy day and are free at 8:00 p.m., your school is always available!
Carson: With online school, you don’t have to buy a bunch of school supplies or new school clothes. You can buy clothes that you really want instead of clothes for school.
Q: How do you make the first day of school unique to your needs?
Carlie: The first day of school is always an exciting time, and one of my favorite activities to prepare for it is setting up my learning space! I stock it with supplies that are unique to my classes, schedule, and needs, which allows me to thrive as a student and enjoy learning!
Carson: I really like being able to set up my calendar to customize when I take my breaks. You can also set up your schedule so that you have more relaxed days and others that are more focused days. For instance, you can schedule it so Fridays are really light days.
Q: How do you socialize as an online student?
Carson: With online school, I can spend time with other people who share my passion for tennis. My daily routine is to practice tennis, do schoolwork, have lunch with friends, do more schoolwork and tennis, and then work on my fitness. I can also meet Connections Academy classmates by going to the LiveLesson® sessions.
Carlie: This year I will serve as the historian and National Honor Society co-president at Oregon Connections Academy. This alone brings lots of exciting opportunities to socialize. In addition, I plan to attend many field trips, continue my involvement in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, and socialize with classmates through LiveLesson sessions.
Q: What are some of your best tips for success at Connections Academy?
Carson: I would tell other students to pay attention like your teacher can see you. Follow the instructions and take notes, even though the teacher doesn’t know if you are or not! You also don’t want to get behind on lessons. And of course, don’t cheat or plagiarize!
Carlie: It’s always very helpful to set up your learning space the night before so you’re ready to get started in the morning. On the first day, you will most likely be getting quite a few WebMail messages from your teachers with welcome letters, syllabuses, and information for the new year, so make sure to stay on top of your inbox. It’s also important to reach out to your teachers. It’s their job to help you succeed, so communicate with them often and let them know how you’re doing.
Families making the transition to online school can ask for no better advice or encouragement than this final comment from Carlie: “Switching to virtual school is a big change, but a change for the better! Give yourself time to adjust, develop a routine, and get settled. Use your extra time to do what you’re passionate about. Oftentimes, virtual school students have more time left in their day, great for playing sports, learning a new instrument, or finding a hobby!” The flexibility and ability to customize learning are what make online school great for so many students!
Follow us on social media to learn how other online families are celebrating back-to-school time. If you share your back-to-school pictures on social media, include #FirstDayMyWay and #CAFirstDay. We also encourage you to tag your school on Facebook or @ConnectionsAcademy on Instagram!
To learn how you can customize your student’s education and be more involved by going back to school online, visit the website for Connections Academy online public school. Or to learn about online private school, visit Pearson Online Academy ’s website.