Virtual learning opportunities are in demand across the country. This year, families have discovered new instructional techniques that suit their students’ learning styles better than traditional in-classroom education. Hybrid learning, online school, and everything in between offer new variations on the traditional learning model. Districts are implementing virtual schools in addition to traditional classroom learning to offer different options. Families can then decide what choice works best for each learner while staying enrolled in their home district.
It can be costly and time-consuming for districts to develop their own virtual learning systems. Instead, many schools are outsourcing their online education. However, where there is opportunity, there are people who seek to take advantage. Based on recent fraud lawsuits and cyber security threats, it is more important than ever to find an educational provider you can trust.
What could go wrong?
Some new edtech companies have defrauded states by padding their numbers and overcharging for virtual services. When the bulk bill goes through the state, the Department of Education can experience difficulty verifying all of the numbers. Meanwhile, the virtual academy can charge for more students than they teach, and it will go unnoticed until the state audits the bill. The state loses time and money double-checking the bill and engaging in civil lawsuits to recover any lost funds.
Other malicious actors try to take advantage of weak cybersecurity with phishing and ransomware. Schools store the personal information of their students, parents, and staff on their servers. All of that data is vulnerable to hackers who will steal it, hold it hostage, and only release it for a price. Districts need to be cautious as they trust new virtual learning partners and ensure they have proper security built into their systems.
What to look for when selecting a virtual school provider:
- Proven track record
-Ask how long your provider has been in business.
If they cropped up in the last year, they may not have the experience necessary to provide streamlined onboarding processes, secure servers, high-quality instruction, or assist in solving technology issues. Proximity Learning has a rich 10-year history of providing high-caliber virtual learning services to districts. Our new proprietary system, PLI Connect, simplifies onboarding and enrollment management to smooth the transition for school districts and teachers. Our teachers are experienced in both classroom teaching and virtual teaching. They are respected for their professionalism and their creativity in implementing unique lesson plans to achieve the desired learning outcomes. Our established processes leave little room for issues, and our Solutions team is quick to fix anything that slips through, so you always have the support you need.
-Ask to see their success stories.
It is important to hear the experience straight from the school districts that have partnered with the company. If a district’s students have had a positive experience, good grades, and responsive service and they have returned year after year, the provider is trustworthy and attentive. PLI has long-standing relationships with districts across the country because we are honest partners who continually provide exemplary service.
- Certified teachers
-Ask what certifications their teachers have earned and how they continue professional development throughout the year.
It takes a special person and a specialized background to be a great teacher. The last thing schools and parents want is learning loss due to poor instruction. Students deserve to be taught by experts in their field. PLI teachers are certified by the state and by the National Virtual Teacher Association. Our teachers continue their education throughout the year, every year, to ensure they are up-to-date on the latest academic updates, technological tools and best practices. We do not accept the emergency waivers offered by states, our teachers must be fully certified.
- Synchronous instruction
-Ask how the classes will be delivered.
It is easy to search YouTube for educational videos, but pre-recorded videos alone will not achieve the same learning outcomes as live instruction. Students should have a live teacher to interact, ask questions, and form bonds. Watching pre-recorded videos is a one-size-fits-all option, but it does not meet students where they are. When flexibility is the goal, students need attentive educators to ensure they keep up with the class. A live, remote teacher can be more responsive by personalizing lessons to the students. Proximity Learning emulates the best parts of the classroom experience - building rapport and trust, enabling one-on-one question and answer, monitored group work, learning live, and personalized lesson plans.
- Paid through school, not state
-Ask who is checking the numbers.
The bigger the bulk bill, the bigger the opportunity for scammers to slip in extra charges. When the state is paying a provider, schools and districts do not have a way to verify the number of classes they have contracted. An audit of the full bill can take time. This leaves a large window open to fraud, including the Indiana lawsuit mentioned above. PLI is contracted directly through the school district. You can trust you are receiving an accurate bill because the numbers can easily be checked, and there is no opportunity to pad the numbers. Integrity, honesty, and transparency are important to us.
As families seek more flexibility and educational systems are updated to utilize new technology, individuals will attempt to take advantage of the vulnerability that accompanies big changes. Stay ahead of the remote learning revolution and partner with a reputable provider.
Your checklist includes:
- Ask questions about its success, qualifications, and processes.
- Ensure they have built relationships with other schools and districts.
- Check their cybersecurity and billing.
- Make sure they are responsive to questions and issues.
Most importantly, verify that their service will meet the needs of your students and help them achieve their goals. All students deserve expert teachers who are invested in their success.