With the growing popularity of virtual or online charter schools, also known as cyber charter schools, many parents are increasingly curious about this alternative educational option. A virtual charter school is an accredited educational institution providing coursework and instruction via online platforms and resources. Virtual charter schools offer an alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar public, private, and charter schools by allowing students an opportunity to learn remotely from the comfort of any location.

While virtual charter schools are all uniquely different, the same basic framework is true with each: students access their coursework and educational materials online, communicate with teachers and peers through virtual platforms, and submit their work electronically. The curriculum is typically delivered via a combination of live or recorded video lessons, interactive activities, and online discussions.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the advantages that proponents cite as reasons to choose online education for your child, as well as some of the disadvantages that critics say come with opting for cyberschool over more traditional schooling.

Online Classes: Advantages and Disadvantages

Online Learning Advantages

Flexible, Personalized Learning Environment – Perhaps an online charter school’s most significant advantage is its flexibility and personalization. Students can learn at their own pace, advancing or slowing down through various concepts depending on their understanding, and the online format allows them to work around commitments such as work or extracurriculars.

Accessibility – For some students, particularly those living in rural or remote areas or who have extenuating circumstances at home, access to traditional schools may be limited or impractical. With online charters, all that’s really needed is internet access.

Alternative to Public School Issues – There are certainly problems within some public school systems, particularly at the high school level, where social and behavioral issues can distract or otherwise hinder the learning process. With cyber schools, the social and behavioral issues of a student’s peers are very limited, and proponents of online schools often cite this as one of the main reasons why online school is better than in-person classes for some learners.

Other advantages include:

  • Specialized programs such as STEM or theater
  • Ease of communication via online forums for some students
  • Adaptive to auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning styles

Online Learning Disadvantages

Limited Access to Extracurricular Activities – Although some students choose online learning to have the flexibility to commit more to an outside extracurricular, more traditional students won’t have access to as robust of an extracurricular program when attending cyber schooling. However, some online charters are enriching their extracurricular offerings to combat this. 

Excessive Screen Time – Attending online classes can lead to a lot of screen time, which has been noted to have adverse effects, including eye strain, headaches, and disrupted circadian rhythm.

Lack of Social Interaction – While some students may find the social interactions at traditional school distracting or even mentally distressing, others may find themselves feeling isolated during home-based studies, particularly if they don’t find the virtual classroom stimulating or interactive enough.  

There are clearly plenty of online learning advantages, particularly for students that require the flexibility or environment that virtual schooling offers, but if you’re wondering, “Is online learning effective for every student?” The answer is no. And that’s why it’s so important to weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of cyber charter schools against the individual circumstances of the individual student. 

To learn more about how an online charter school can empower students to own their learning and grow and achieve in an evidence-based, inclusive environment, check out all that PA Distance Learning has to offer