How To Get Parent Buy-in In K12 Online Learning Programs

Getting the go-ahead to use virtual education courses is a big deal. Parents are often reluctant to let their child enroll in a online learning program—or agree to hand over their school records to allow them to do so.

K12—or online learning programs, especially what we now call “hybrid” courses—is the new cutting edge of the education industry. In fact, it’s rapidly evolving into the next education trend, and prospective parents are not happy about it. They’re wondering: Who exactly is teaching our children and how is that view being received at home?

“When I went to review schools for my three-year-old, I was walking through the front doors. I immediately knew that this school wasn’t what I wanted my child to experience,” a mom in Orlando told me. “As soon as I stepped inside, the security guard left the classroom door open. He walks in, he starts to do things, his back turns to me, he looks around and takes a long breath. I looked around the room and saw all these adults talking and laughing about things in a way that offended my sensibilities. For a moment, I thought about the degree of introspection and adult interest in learning my child should be exposed to.”

Schools are now being scrutinized for their online classrooms. They’re drawing so much ire, in fact, that even Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is considering using online programs to bridge the state’s increasingly costly teachers’ pensions fund shortfall. But the handwringing is unwarranted. Quite frankly, there’s nothing wrong with teaching an online classroom. In fact, according to a 2016 Morning Consult/Politico poll, 63 percent of Americans view online learning as “a very important educational resource.” Moreover, 83 percent of adults would opt to participate in online learning, regardless of their grade level.

To convince parents that online learning programs will be just fine in the home, you must focus on the emotional engagement in their teaching methods. Learning and developing empathy go hand in hand with effective teaching. Rehearse these skills with students—and reinforce that these are the behaviors that are going to help them get a job in the future, regardless of their family income.

In a study conducted by the National Center for Policy Analysis, parents who brought in their children for education and learning during in-home practice found their children’s understanding of communication, behavior, social skills, and interpersonal relationships improved. To raise empathy and a love of learning for the “new normal”, here are 5 steps to guide families through K12 online learning.

1. Talk to your child about what teachers and students say and do. Even talking about how people talk at school can help a student understand basic language concepts. For example, let the child know that the teacher doesn’t just talk about reading but also participates in reading discussions. That’s how people really communicate—in conversation—even when there are screens everywhere.

2. Make connections and learn about what other parents experience with online learning. Anecdotes around the world have told of the many challenges and obstacles that families face when looking to get their kids into online learning programs. Instead of lamenting how tough the education industry is, engage. Encourage families to ask each other how they are able to accomplish both finding the resources and making the return on investment that K12 has become. What about the technical difficulty of tracking down the resources, for example? Some have reported a similar challenge just when an online class is recommended. Find people in your community who have visited online programs and engaged with children in them. Perhaps that leads to a change in how technology is used to facilitate learning.

3. Think about why online learning is ideal for children. Teach your children the basics of English, math, and science. When developing a basic understanding of these concepts, that’s when they can be introduced to complex digital learning.

4. Enjoy the experience of online learning. If you can spend five minutes in a classroom, then you can really engage with an online learning experience. Best practices suggest two thirds of online learning programs stay within the first two minutes. You’ll quickly see that engaging in online learning makes for a better learning experience. Keep with the positive mindset and participate in the learning with your child.

5. Ask the right questions when seeking answers. Parents deserve to know how they can continue to make the most of online learning programs in their homes and what accommodations to make to enable that experience. Explain to the person handling your family’s requests about topics to be covered online. Just saying, “That’s interesting” can help inform the next step.

Mary SArendt, MBA, LMSW, is an education advocate and the founder of Teacher with a Vision.

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