Switching from traditional school to online school can feel overwhelming for both students and parents alike. But the results can also be very rewarding. The key is to make the shift as quickly, smoothly, and stress-free as possible. Knowing what to expect and having a strategy in place can help ease the transition.

While some students opt for online school on a temporary basis due to a health issue, injury, pregnancy, or other circumstance, others are looking for a long-term alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar institutions.

Whether you’re making the switch on a temporary basis or plan on graduating from high school via online curriculum, the strategy is mostly the same‰ÛÓas are the potential benefits.

If you’re trying to decide if online school is right for you, check out what these students say on HuffPost.

Traditional school vs. online school

The biggest difference between a traditional school situation and online learning is the type of structure.

With traditional school you’re obviously attending classes in an actual building, interacting with teachers and other students face-to-face. You’ll also be following a rigid daily schedule. For some learners, the rigidity of this system may be what they need, and arguably better suited in terms of preparing students for a more traditional 9-to-5 workplace structure where they follow someone else’s schedule and expectations.

But for many others this antiquated system simply doesn’t work‰ÛÓit lacks the flexibility and individualization they desire. Students who complain of feeling confined, micro-managed or put into a box or those who feel their learning pace is significantly out of pace with their peers (either faster or slower) may find online school a much better fit.

Other reasons students may choose to move away from traditional schools include:

Enter online school. In this model the structure is self-imposed, which has both pros and cons. Students get to create their own schedule and set their own pace, have more choice in which classes they take and the overall direction of their education, and can often have more personalized learning interactions with teachers through email, phone calls, and chat. Best of all, most of the social pressures and distractions are gone, allowing students to truly focus on their studies.

But with this freedom comes a great responsibility and that is what can make transitioning a little tricky.

What is required to make the transition?

Before making the change, students need to know that they will have to be responsible for making their own schedule and devoting adequate time for their courses. Parents need to know that although a good portion of the responsibility should fall on the student (just how much is dependent upon their age), they too will need to be supportive and mindful of their child’s dedication and progress in order to help keep them on track.

Strategies and tips for students to transition from traditional school to online school

  • Create a schedule and stick to it.

Online school requires self-discipline. It’s best to set up a schedule from the beginning and commit to sticking with it. Choose a time of day when you are most focused and won’t have other responsibilities infringing on the time.

  • Designate a space to work

Just because you won’t be surrounded by classmates doesn’t mean your environment is distraction free. Parents, siblings, the TV, and pets, can all draw attention away from studies. Choose a place that is quiet, tidy (no one can concentrate in a mess), and separate from others. An office or desk in a bedroom is ideal. Don’t try to work in bed or on the couch where you’re more likely to fall asleep or turn on the TV.

  • Turn off your phone/Stay off of social media accounts

Most likely you’ll be working on a laptop. It’s a good idea to turn your phone completely off during your designated class time. This will keep you from getting distracting texts. Also, don’t have any social media accounts open on other tabs while you’re working.

  • Check in with parents regarding progress

Be sure to check in with your parents on a regular basis‰ÛÓit will help keep you on track. The last thing you want to do is go down a path where you’re neglecting your classwork and suddenly find that it’s too late to make up all that you’ve missed.

  • Don’t overextend

The middle school and high school years are a busy time‰ÛÓsometimes too busy. Make sure you allow ample time for your studies and don’t overschedule yourself, trying to squeeze in too much into too little time. If you’re working, try to balance your hours as best as possible so you have the time and energy to devote to school.

  • Use the available resources

Don’t ignore the resources available through your online school system. Just because you’re attending school online doesn’t mean you’re alone. Contact your teachers and counselors for help when you get stuck or are feeling overwhelmed. Also, use chat forums to communicate with other students enrolled in the same online school. You’re not alone or in a vacuum.

  • Make sure your equipment is up to date

Most online schools should have details on their website about equipment/system requirements. Nothing will make online learning harder than if your computer stutters or can’t function properly.

By following these simple guidelines you can make a successful and smooth transition from a traditional brick-and-mortar school to an online school.

Best of luck.

BlueSky Online School is one of Minnesota’s first online schools, serving students grades 7-12, providing an individualized, dynamic education for all students. If you’d like to learn more about what BlueSky Online can offer your student, please call 651-642-088 or or visit our contact us page.