Why some students prefer virtual schooling

Insight Schools is part of a rapidly expanding market for online education that also includes companies such as Connections Academy, K12 Inc., EdisonLearning (formerly Edison Schools Inc.), and others. A study released during the Virtual School Symposium confirms that the total number of full-time virtual-school students in the United States is on the rise, “along with a continued increase in the number of new full-time programs.” (See “Report assesses K-12 online learning.”)

Education leaders would be wise to listen to what students such as Sanchez had to say, and consider ways they can build opportunities for self-paced learning and more freedom of choice into their own school offerings–or else risk losing a growing number of students to online schools that operate outside their domain.

Enrolling in a virtual school not only frees up time for students to pursue other interests, it also teaches them valuable time-management skills, said Geoffrey Wall, a Tempe, Ariz., senior who has been enrolled in Arizona Connections Academy for five years.

Five years ago, Wall was a competitive figure skater who found himself waking up at 4 a.m. each day to train for his sport and make it to school on time.

“It was becoming something of a problem,” he said. Wall’s mother looked into home-schooling her son but found few resources to help her. The family’s local school district offered no help or advice, either, he said, and finally Wall’s mother stumbled across a local newspaper article about Connections Academy.

Wall is no longer involved in competitive figure skating, but he found he enjoyed his classes with Connections Academy and reasoned that switching not only schools, but also learning styles, in the middle of his high school experience would not have been beneficial.

Now, Wall begins his mornings by logging onto Connections Academy and choosing a handful of lessons to complete.

“Depending on the day, I might have more or I might have less, and once I finish them, I’m free to do whatever I want,” he said. “If I have to take a day off, I might get on and do an extra day of work or fit in an extra lesson.”

Working so independently encourages the same type of time-management skills that college students need to be successful, he said. Managing classes, assignments, and social activities can be daunting, but Wall has a firm grasp on his routine.

Laura Ascione

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