Monday, December 17, 2012

10 Questions for Online Students

6031 Greater Ohio Virtual School Ad
6031 Greater Ohio Virtual School Ad (Photo credit: MarkjwuMaurader)
by Thomas Nixon

If you are planning on attending an online school, you need to speak with other current online students.

While you will want to make sure that you don't take everything a student says at face value, it can open up a whole range of additional questions about a specific school.

So what questions should you ask that student? While there many ways to go with this, this following questions are offered as a starting point in the process:

  1. What has been your experience in attending this online school? A very general question, but a good place to start. So very vague that it gives the students a lot of room in which to answer the question.

  2. On a scale of 1 - 10, how would you rate this school? While it is not possible to quantify how good a school is based solely on a single number, it is important to have a sense of ranking. If a student has attended more than one online school, it might be good to know what ranking this student would give each school.

  3. How would you describe the teachers? What you are looking for here are words like "supportive," "responsive," and the like. You want teachers who will provide you with the support you need in order to be successful.

  4. How is the curriculum? This is another one of those open-ended questions that may elicit interesting responses. While following there are a couple more in-depth ones, this is a good place to begin.

  5. What resources are not available online? What you don't want to see are textbooks. If there are textbooks, I begin to wonder how online this online school might be. Certainly, there can be books off-line (i.e. "Romeo and Juliet"), but most everything should be online.

  6. How technologically engaging was the curriculum? Some online courses are very text-based; others are more media-rich. You want something that is more media-rich. This would include audio, video, interactive simulations, and so on.

  7. What does grading look like? All grading should be online. You should not need to wait for an email from a teacher for a grade.

  8. What prompted you to choose this school? Very open-ended. Hopefully, this student can describe the process that was used.

  9. How much did you relate to other students? Some programs have much student interaction. Others have none. Decide which is better for you.

  10. If you were considering attending an online school again, would you choose this particular school? Clearly, a response from one student should not determine your future, but, that being said, I would be careful in choosing a program that others did not like. This is particularly true if they graduated (and much less true if they did not).

Clearly, these questions are open-ended and are only meant as a starting point in your process of collecting data about specific online schools. Still, it is all about doing your due diligence.

Thomas Nixon is the author of Complete Guide to Online High Schools (Degree Press, 2012). He is the manager of the well-regarded Best Online High Schools.

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