As a high school principal at an international school, I want students to successful and well supported if they journey into online learning. Our students in grades 11 and 12 can take online classes for the IB Diploma Program (DP), and we partner with The Virtual High School (VHS, Inc.) to prepare them for the high-stakes online DP courses, as well as to better prepare them for the online learning that they will inevitably engage in at university and/or careers.

Taking online courses with VHS not only helps students get comfortable working online, but it also exposes them to opportunities we can’t offer. As a smaller international school, we cannot provide as many options as a larger institution can. VHS greatly increases the diversity and choice for our students, allowing them to pursue their individual passions.

Related content: How to be a successful virtual teacher

We also benefit from VHS at a pragmatic level. Enabling students to take online classes allows more flexibility in our scheduling and allows greater chances for students to get the options they want in terms of our internally taught classes. Here are five other reasons districts and schools should add online learning to their curriculum offerings.

Related Content:

eSchool News Online and Blended Learning Guide

The eSchool News Online and Blended Learning Guide is here! It features strategies to help K-12 administrators and educators adjust to the sudden shift to online learning in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It also features best practices, resources, and tips for top-notch online and blended learning practices. A new eSchool News Guide will launch each month–don’t miss a single one!

5 reasons to add online learning to your school

1. Students respond well when they have choices.
At every level, the idea of student choice is important, as it enables students to take responsibility for their learning. Giving students access to a wide variety of new subjects online allows them to exercise choice and gives them a stake in their own education; this choice means that students buy a little bit more into what they are doing. They are going to be more passionate about what they have chosen to do, and this will improve their learning.

2. Independent learning offers flexibility.
VHS offers accountability in terms of the credits we can offer. It’s a rigorous program that we can trust, and that parents can trust. As an international school, for example, language options are important. We have students from 65 different countries and there’s no way we can teach 10 different languages, let alone 65. We know that we have kids who will be in China next year and they can get a jump start on Mandarin, or they might be Chinese and want to study their mother tongue. This flexibility is possible through VHS and it is done in a rigorous way that allows us to give students legitimate credit.

3. Online learning is differentiated.
At my previous school in Bucharest, we used online learning through VHS to help students who wanted to go into computer programming. We didn’t offer that course in school, but we could provide it online and let students work at their own pace. Students who were accelerating and really interested in the subject matter could move ahead quickly and not be held back just because they were in, say, grade 10. They can study at a much higher level and progress at an individualized pace through the online learning courses.

How virtual learning helps students pursue their passions

4. Online learning develops self-determined, motivated students.
To excel in online learning, students must become independent learners. They also need to be self-motivated and organized, both of which are key skills that universities and today’s job market demands. VHS teachers are highly qualified, readily available, and responsive, but the students must take the initiative to reach out with any questions or concerns. Online learning helps students become more independent and proactive in their learning, which provides students with a solid foundation for success.

5. Students can build strong global connections.
With students in 65 countries, we can enable strong global connections that have the potential to last a lifetime. Through our online learning platform, students work with students from other countries and build those bridges. This helps to broaden their horizon and expand their knowledge.

When encouraged to pursue their passions, students find ways of directing themselves and learning and gaining independence—all enabled by online learning. From there, it’s about preparing them for what’s coming ahead, whether it’s a diploma program, online classes, university, or the workforce.

About the Author:

Lorne Bird is secondary school principal at the International School of Dakar in Senegal.