Best Practices for Connecting with Students Online

Creating a child-centered culture and environment is the main guiding principle of the Florida Virtual School. It is within this special â€virtual†world that students have the resources to embrace a different style of learning, free from the conditions of a traditional school. It does not replace it but offers another style in which students learn and meet their individuality. Connecting with such students on line is a multi-faceted endeavor. Our model for best practices is designated by excellent communication skills that involve the entire student as a person and acknowledging who they are.

There are many ways to engage the students online. Our action plan includes: welcome calls, phone calls on at least a monthly basis, Emails, monthly progress reports, and constant collaborative efforts with the student and their families; and emphasizing the freedom of choice.

The first and major action is the initial welcome call. It is here that you set about discovering who this student is, who are their families, and what are their cultural and work values. You learn their core values, hobbies, interests, and emotional needs, and you build a trust that allows them to over come the biggest fear of all – asking questions. They learn they can do this without the fear of judgment from their peers or teachers.

A good sense of empathy and humor is extremely helpful. Guiding them through the material and constantly providing feedback is crucial. The relationship is built on honesty and integrity. It is here that you not only facilitate the acquiring of knowledge but enrich them with opportunities to reevaluate their work. It is also important to provide opportunities to allow them to resubmit their work a second time. This is where the actual learning takes place as they realize they have a better way to present knowledge and thus have the freedom of choice. They choose after receiving feedback whether to resubmit the assignment for a better grade by incorporating comments or choose not to. Providing choice is a marvelous way to connect to kids.

Secondly, online learning allows the student to work at their chosen pace, unrestricted by time, place and environment. They are given a framework for assignments, a rubric for grading and time to process the information. In the words of one student: “Some positive effects of online learning are it allows you to work at your own pace. Also, there is no pressure to force you to learn in a certain time frame. In a lot of classroom scenarios, you may do an assignment to prepare for a test and just learn the information for your short-term memory. So once the next assignment comes along the previous info is already out of your brain. But with online working it allows you to go back and know exactly where to look to help you out with assignmentsâ€.

The personal relationship built within these confines permits these students to utilize analysis, logical thinking and the best practice of all, self evaluation. The major tool for connecting with these students is, without a doubt, communication. Florida Virtual School exemplifies this model. The instructor projects a personal relationship as if each and every student in that class is the only one. Treating them with respect, dignity and valuing their opinions creates an atmosphere in which they want to learn.

I’ll close with a testimonial from one parent:

“Many needs were met for my daughter Amanda when her physical school told her that she could not take certain classes there because they were full even though she needed them to graduate. I did not want her driving to Daytona to take evening classes there at age 16, but that was the only alternative given to us until Amanda learned about FLVS.

I have found the communication with instructors to be much more than what I receive from her traditional school. Between frequent Emails, numerous phone numbers, and monthly phone calls, I could not be happier with feeling like I know what is going on with my daughter and her studies. Honestly I was very leery at first- as much of her work is done on her time and done independently- however, once we got on board I was pleasantly surprised at the wonderful communication there was between not only her and her teachers, but between her teachers and me as well.

She was able to accomplish her goal of completing high school in 3 years, is graduating with high honors, was VP of the school SGA, is ranked 17th in her class, and will be attending UF this summer to start her studies in journalism. Without FLVS none of this would have been possible.

Our thanks and our gratitude to all the wonderful teachers that have such dedication to make this all possible and such a positive experience.â€