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"A lot of the courses include social components such as discussing assignments..."


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Review of: Virtual High School

Michael Hicks - Alumnus    (May 22, 2020)

Overall Experience

Virtual High School allows you the flexibility to move and pursue personal and professional aspirations without sacrificing your education. I wouldn’t have graduated without VHS, as I had decided in grade 10 that my professional goals came before my education. It does require work ethic, but as a parent if you can supervise and ensure your kid puts in a few hours per day, the extra time and flexibility you gain is invaluable. Technology has changed a lot since I attended, but even back then there was a focus on delivering high quality course materials and assignments. I have taken a lot of online based training, and it often feels not well put together or sometimes confusing. I never had that feeling at Virtual High School.


School Leadership

I had limited interaction with leadership, but I can say that the few times I did interact with the school, it felt very much like just speaking with a normal school administration. I did get the feeling that they wanted to build a positive community and not just sell courses online en masse. They seemed very accessible at all times and responsive, which can be a big issue when dealing with large schools or even universities or colleges. It helps that they are real local people, some online schools can feel very distant.


Teaching

The quality of teaching was excellent. The coursework was well put together, but more importantly there was a surprising amount of social interaction. A lot of the courses include social components such as discussing assignments in a classroom chat for marks and giving feedback to other classmates. The teachers were always willing to discuss assignments in detail. In some cases I was even able to discuss my mark with teachers to see how I could improve, which is something you would not expect to find in such an impersonal setting like an online school. I do not recall any specific teachers but I do not recall any negative interactions with any teachers, they all seemed qualified and dedicated to helping students get the work done.


Academics

I think the academics are on par with any high school, and like any other school, are basically what you make of it. I am not a very dedicated student, I wanted my diploma in the least amount of time and effort so I could move on. I felt that VHS did a great job of challenging me academically to ensure that I met the standards of university-level courses. The best part about it is that you can move forward at your own pace instead of just working harder for nothing - it seems that some schools increase the difficulty as a substitute for pushing students ahead. If you are a particularly gifted student, you should be pushed through high school and on to better things, and VHS is the perfect tool for that.


Extracurriculars

Of course extracurriculars are challenging for an online school, but I do not think of extracurriculars as attached to school life at VHS. The flexibility VHS gave you to explore extracurriculars outside of school are so far in excess of anything that could be gained from those at a brick and mortar school. I was working full time in software development while at school, I was starting to climb the corporate ladder while everyone else was adding a chess club or debate team to their list of extracurricular activities. I just don't see it as a drawback.


Students

I did not interact with a lot of students, but I do remember the large amount of international students, which was impressive to me. They weren't the majority, but I just was not expecting any I guess. It is nice to see that VHS gives international students the ability to get an OSSD, as immigration can be very challenging for a lot of families. I did feel that all the students shared the values related to being ambitious and getting ahead, we all wanted to move on. There were social aspects to many different courses as well, I can remember an example where an assignment required each student to not only share a book review, but engage with at least 2 other students on their book review. It was a nice way to incorporate social aspects to virtual school.


School Location

Is there any location better than in your own private study? As the world works more towards independent work, work from home, remote access etc, the ability to log in any time in any location can enable all kinds of alternative lifestyles, or even traditional lifestyles (like a normal adult routine, work 9-5 and play the rest). It is what you make of it.


School Life

Online school enables the best quality of life I can imagine. I had the freedom to do anything I wanted. I would wake up, do an assignment or 2, golf, and have lunch in the afternoon, play sports in the evening. There are certainly drawbacks if you live an isolated life, but if you put in the effort to spend the time you are not working at school to developing yourself socially, there is no reason it should be a detriment. The school does not need to be social, but everyone needs to be social. VHS forces you to take control of your own life at an earlier age, and I see no negative to that. Any students I interacted with seemed like they were in the same boat as me.


Community

I was not a part of the community, so I will again outline the fact that VHS allows you to be more flexible with your time, enabling far more social or community engagement than you might find at a traditional high school. Developing habits like adults have - working in the day, keeping in touch with friends a bit, socializing a few nights per week, engaging in extracurriculars a few nights per week - this is a normal routine. There is no drawback to entering this kind of routine in school years. High school is treated as one big social engagement with a side dose of school. I have never liked that.


Admissions

I am not aware of the admission requirements, and from what I remember the fees were very in-line with the costs of picking up an additional course at a local private school. I compared it to my friends who had a bad grade and wanted to pick up an extra course to improve their average, that cost was actually higher and the quality of the course was much lower compared to VHS. I believe the simple fee and admission requirements make it very accessible for students of all backgrounds, which is nice. I do remember the school did focus on the success of students, so you can count on admissions following up.


University placement and counselling

When I needed transcripts etc in order to support my application, Virtual High School was much easier to deal with than my friends schools. I did not take up any counselling, but I can say that Western University (then known as University of Western Ontario) looked at my Virtual High School Ontario Secondary School Diploma the same as they would other schools, and my > 80% average put me in shoo-in position to get in. One thing is for sure, I definitely had the time to apply to any programs I wanted, as my schedule was flexible and I could finish all my courses as early or as late as I wanted to. I even had the chance to visit a lot of universities, as I had no school schedule to worry about.


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