Connections Academy is a virtual school where students learn outside a traditional classroom, supported by a certified teacher and parent, or other adult Learning Coach. As of the 2007-08 school year, Connections Academy serves students in kindergarten through high school at schools in 12 states. There is no tuition or fees and in most (but not all) schools a computer, printer and subsidy for Internet connection are provided. According to Jonathan Horowitz, Ed.D, in his article The Benefits of Virtual Learning, several factors of distance learning work to create a learning environment that connects with students.
"Despite popular belief, virtual learning is not just tied to the technology of having lessons online but also to the ability to tailor the lessons and education to best fit the needs of the individual student," says Horowitz.
Connections Academy's program allows for greater personalization and flexibility, accountability, strong parent and teacher involvement, and social interaction.
1. Flexibility and Personalization: Virtual schools enable teachers to customize the education experience to meet the strengths and needs of each student.
Personalizing a student's learning program is done at every step of the way. Students are placed in courses based not only on their age, but also on their personal abilities. Teachers then establish a learning plan for each student, and work throughout the year to monitor and adjust instruction based on individual needs.
- Students often learn from home, but also from libraries, community centers, and occasionally from the road. Students may adjust their learning schedules to meet the needs of their busy life. This scheduling flexibility and program portability allows students to learn at a time of day and place where it works best.
2. Expertise and Accountability: Connections Academy offers a rigorous curriculum that meets or exceeds state standards and prepares students for academic success.
- Students are offered a full range of core courses and electives for grades K-11 (12th grade starting fall 2008.) The curriculum incorporates texts, materials, and online content from leading curriculum partners and Connections Academy's own curriculum specialists.
- Connections Academy teachers are certified professionals who are specially trained in the nuances of working effectively in a virtual setting. They work directly with both the student and parent to develop an individual learning plan, provide instruction, and evaluate assignments.
- Most Connections Academy teachers work together from centralized offices, allowing them to collaborate with one another and share tips on subject matter and teaching techniques. This also allows for better communication and accountability, and lets teachers focus on better serving their students and parents.
3. Parent and Teacher Involvement: Family commitment to a child's education is very important for learning in a virtual learning environment.
- Parent participation in a child's education can lead to improved grades and test scores, higher graduation rates, and greater enrollment in post secondary education.
- At Connections Academy, parents (or other responsible adults) serve as personal Learning Coaches who help manage day-to-day activities. Parents are supported to take on the important Learning Coach role with tutorials, an orientation program, and a community of other parents with first-hand advice.
- Teachers, Learning Coaches and students establish a regular schedule of online or telephone conferences--at least once every one or two weeks, or more, depending on the needs of the student.
4. Socialization: Most students in a virtual school have outside social and athletic activities that keep them busy, but interacting with schoolmates also is an important part of the learning experience. Connections Academy provides many opportunities for students--and parents--to gather and communicate with one another.
- Online discussion boards and WebMail allow students and parents to connect virtually with members of their school and other Connections Academy schools across the country.
- Teachers and community coordinators plan field trips and other in-person activities to give students and their families the opportunity to connect face-to-face while they are learning.
Connections Academy is a virtual school, but it is much more than just teachers, students, and parents connected through technology. It is a real community committed to students reaching their full potential.
To learn more about the services offered or to find out more about the school, check out their Website at http://www.connectionsacademy.com or contact Connections Academy by phone toll free at 800-382-6010. You can also contact them via email at [email protected].