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“Going” to Cyber School: How to Create a Space that Promotes Success

by Rachel Livesey, English Content Developer

Friday, January 26, 2024

online schooling programs

While students and families have become more familiar with online schooling programs since the pandemic, the concept of “going” to cyber school full-time remains a foreign concept to many. Cyber students study the same subjects and demonstrate proficiency on the same standards as their brick-and-mortar peers. However, it is necessary for cyber students to learn a certain set of soft skills in order to succeed in the cyber environment.

In this article, we will discuss tips to help students be successful when “going” to cyber school.

  1. Create a designated workspace.

While “going” to cyber school does not require students to leave their houses, students tend to find more success when they create a designated workplace. This “school zone” should include books, supplies, school devices, chargers, a desk, and a chair. If possible, the workspace should be a place in the home that is designated for schoolwork only. This might be a designated office, but it could also be a workspace set up in a quiet room in the home. It should be free of distractions; in fact, students might want to put their personal cell phones on “Do Not Disturb” and/or physically place their phones just outside of the designated area while they are doing schoolwork. Additionally, this serves as good practice for limiting cell phone use in the workplace. Designating a specific place for the student to “go” puts students in the school mindset and also creates a visible boundary where the student can work uninterrupted.

  1. Follow a personalized daily schedule.

Cyber school students have the unique opportunity to hone their time management skills as they often create their daily schedules, whereas their brick-and-mortar counterparts have a daily bell schedule created for them. The asynchronous environment at 21CCCS provides students with a flexible schedule. While daily attendance is mandatory, students can organize their day around work, family responsibilities, and extracurricular activities. That being said, our most successful students report that they follow a personalized daily schedule. By creating a personalized daily schedule, students at the Pennsylvania cyber charter school must identify what tasks they need to complete, estimate how long each task will take, and determine what resources they will need in order to complete those tasks. Creating a personalized daily plan helps students to become more efficient with their time as they have outlined clear, actionable steps to achievement. The schedule also helps them to maintain focus and reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed by all the tasks that they may need to complete in a week or quarter. Further, the cyber environment allows students to spend more time on subject areas that pose challenges and less time on subject areas that they have mastered.

  1. Utilize resources.

When participating in online homeschool programs, students must utilize their resources in order to be successful. This begins with working through their lessons and reading any assigned texts. So often, we see struggling students dive into their assignments without reviewing the material, which creates confusion for the student who often does not understand the vocabulary or the task. Students should also attend live labs, where they have the opportunity to learn from their teachers and collaborate with their peers.

One of the most underutilized yet individualized resources to help students succeed is one-on-one interactions with their teachers. These interactions take place during either tutoring sessions or office hours. A student who could use a little one-on-one help in a certain subject area might receive an invite from their teacher, but any student can also sign up for these sessions on their own! Tutoring sessions help students to block off a set amount of time to work with their teachers and they are catered to the student’s needs.

Students can also drop into a teacher’s office hours to ask questions. Office hours provide students with time when they can get immediate answers to questions or help with an assignment. Once a week, teachers also hold hours in the evening in order to help meet the student’s individualized schedules.

The school also provides tech and counseling virtual offices to meet student needs.

  1. Make connections with others.

“Going” to cyber school can feel lonely at times, especially in an asynchronous environment, because students are learning according to their own schedules, which may lead to very little or no interactions with peers and teachers. Students who are successful in cyber school report being well-connected to the school itself. They attend live labs, drop into their teachers’ virtual office hours, email their teachers when their schedules conflict, and log into the counseling or tech virtual offices as needed. Students who are successful also have a high participation in clubs and field trips. Going to cyber school does not mean disconnection. In fact, cyber school offers many opportunities for you to connect in ways that students feel comfortable, whether that be one-on-one, in small groups, or during a school-wide assembly. Over time, students are also encouraged to build their confidence by moving away from chat to using the microphone or video!

  1. Build in stretch breaks.

Think about your previous experience at brick-and-mortar. At the end of class, the bell rings, and you walk to your next class. These few moments provide your body with movement and give your brain a break in order to transition to the next subject. Your body and brain need these breaks, so it is critical that cyber school students build stretch breaks into their day! Take the dog outside, pet your kitten for a few moments, get a drink of water, or take a five-minute walk outside. Building in breaks ensures that you are meeting your body’s needs while maximizing productivity. We suggest that students use their iPads to set alarms to signal when it is time to begin/end a break or list the breaks on their personally designed schedule.

“Going” to cyber school, or homeschooling in PA, provides students with flexibility and fosters independence. In a traditional brick-and-mortar setting, the structure is already put in place for students, whereas cyber school allows the students to design a structure that meets their individual needs. These tips for success will help cyber students create structure and make the transition from a brick-and-mortar to an online, asynchronous environment. These tips also help students to practice the skills necessary for success in the workforce after they graduate.