WORTHINGTON — Online virtual learning may be a foreign concept as school systems work to deliver academic content to students. VIBE Online Academy (VIBE) is one of Worthington ISD 518 schools that is no stranger to virtual learning. VIBE was established in 2013 to provide local and students from across Minnesota an alternative to the brick and mortar classroom — via digital learning.
VIBE partners with the nationally recognized online curriculum provider K12. It delivers an online learning experience packed with hands-on learning opportunities aimed to challenge students in both traditional and non-traditional ways. Kellie Reyelts, a seven-year VIBE parent participant and mother of five, states, “The lessons are designed to reach various learning styles. I am thankful that the entire curriculum is planned out for us and includes all the state standards. I do not have to spend time planning for five different grade levels.”
Families choose virtual learning for various reasons. A few of the most commonly heard reasons for choosing an online option are flexibility, stability, adaptability and safety. Amy Shirbroun, the mother of a VIBE middle school student, writes, “The innate flexibility of online schooling allows our daughter to break and rest when necessary. ... We follow the recommended schedules as much as possible, but if we have something come up or assignments take longer than anticipated, we make adjustments.”
Desiree Adolph, mother of a VIBE elementary student, adds, “I enjoy the flexibility of online school. Even when my work hours changed for a couple of weeks, we were able to keep up with the courses at a time when it worked for us. I appreciate having the stability of being online. We know we will be doing work every day, no matter the weather or if someone isn't feeling well. We also don't have to adjust between in person/hybrid/distance learning.”
Finding success in any academic environment is important. Students and parents working in a virtual setting find that organizing and prioritizing time and space is a key to success. As a parent, Kellie Reyelts offers this best practice: “We hang a list of what needs to get done each day on the desk. It gives us all a visual of what needs to be accomplished before the weekend. Organization is the key to our success.”
Daily planning and organizing is important from a student’s point of view as well. Kylee Shirbroun, a VIBE middle school student, provides this advice to students currently working in an online environment: " .... have a desk or designated space where you can keep all of your notebooks and things. This seems to be really helpful for me so I can try to be a little bit more organized.”
In addition to organizing your day, Kylee also finds that planning for breaks — planned or unplanned — is also an important part of online learning success. Kylee states, “One thing that I found challenging about online learning is trying to stay focused while my two cats are bothering me. To help me overcome this, I will take 'play breaks' and play with them. I can then focus on schoolwork when the cats nap!”
Central to a student’s success in the classroom is parent and student engagement. For both students and parents, awareness of individual learning styles is helpful. Students learn a variety of ways and have unique needs specific to their learning. Amy Shirbroun states, “If you don’t already, get to know your child’s learning needs, habits and ideal learning methods so you can best assist your student(s) while organizing and prioritizing your time. No matter the student’s learning styles or abilities, online learning will require parental involvement in order to succeed.”
Online virtual education is a unique learning opportunity offering flexibility, stability and adaptability to the classroom experience. Ultimately, the greatest achievement for any student and parent is to see your child grow. VIBE is a place where both the parent and the student can actively do this together. Desiree Adolph sums up the online experience best: “Most of all, I love seeing her learn. Seeing the moment something she wasn’t understanding before finally clicks and it becomes easy for her. These are things I only got to hear about in progress reports or at conferences before. Now I get to witness it myself!”
Christy Menke is the extended time and online manager for District 518.