Online schooling provides flexibility, an individual approach to learning, and innovation; however, attendance might become an issue if not managed properly. In traditional school settings, attendance means that students are in school for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, for a minimum of 180 school days. This adds up to about 1,050 instructional hours per academic year. In online school settings, the attendance policy simply requires that students log on, complete lessons, and “attend classes” by progressing in their school work.
Why Does Truancy Occur?
In traditional school settings, there are three major reasons for students to miss school: (a) illness, hospitalization, or behavior problems; (b) bullying, harassment, or safety concerns; (c) or lack of value in education by parents.1 While online education provides many benefits for students who struggle in regular school due to the issues mentioned above, completing a sufficient amount of online work on a weekly basis is required in order to stay on track to complete the school year by the determined end date.
Why is attendance important?
Research has shown that consistent attendance is a statistically significant predictor for improved performance in school.2 Thus, monitoring online attendance (performance) is an important factor in assisting students and families with school achievement. Students learn within their their environment,3 those who are not present are not exposed to the required academic skills: (a) attention - to learn, students must pay attention, (b) retention - students must be able to remember what they have been paying attention to, (c) reproduction - students need to translate observation into behavior, and (d) motivation - to be able to accomplish anything. For each of these elements to occur, a student must do the work in order to successfully progress in education and develop those skills.
How does online attendance work?
Online students can do their assignments at any time of the day and on any day of the week, as long as they keep up with assigned work on a weekly basis and finish on time at the end of each quarter, semester, and school year. Enlightium Academy provides an online calendar that helps students with their vacation planning, breaks, and school closures. If a student is unable to finish assigned work during a given week due to illness, travel, or other reasons, parents are required to fill out the Absence Form ahead of time or immediately after the absence.
The best practice assumes that students work on school assignments Monday through Friday, similar to a brick-and-mortar school. However, in online settings, students may complete more work on some days than others, as long as sufficient work is completed each week. If coursework is not completed by the assigned deadline (quarter or semester), an online extension may be granted, depending on the situation. Additionally, specialized programs allow for greater flexibility to accommodate a student’s need.
What can parents do
Given the significant role that attendance plays in a student’s achievement, parents need to be regularly involved to create consistent expectations for the student to thrive. Parental involvement primarily surrounds instilling good study habits and checking on their student’s accomplishments daily or every other day. The amount of involvement can vary per student and depends on the grade level, independence of the student, and years as an online student.
When students are in their first year of online education, parents need to hold their hand and encourage the student to engage with teachers and use available resources. Showing grace is especially necessary in the first year to provide a conducive environment for developing the student’s desire to become a lifelong learner; this will help ensure the student maintains a positive attitude about school while learning to balance the benefits and challenges of online education to develop the necessary skills.
Students should learn to have self-discipline through consistent yet gracious parental discipline. Parents need to model the behavior they seek in their children. Parental involvement includes praising achievements, encouraging a student to do more than required, and connecting education with life experiences.
For any other questions about attendance in online school education, please call (866) 488-4818, or visit EnlightiumAcademy.com. Enlightium Academy is an accredited alternative education option for educating your child from home. Our program offers the comfort of a homeschool education environment and the quality of a private school education curriculum. Enlightium Academy is a private Christian school that offers a Bible-based, flexible, accredited, teacher-supported, and affordable education. Enlightium Academy meets all accreditation and state education requirements, while neither using the state curriculum or Common Core.
1 Archambault, L., Kennedy, k., & Bender, S. (2013). Cyber-Truancy: Addressing Issues of Attendance in the Digital Age. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 46(1), 1-25.
2 Musser, M. (2011). Taking attendance seriously: How school absences undermine student and school performance in New York City. Retrieved from http://www.attendanceworks.org.
3 Bandura, A. (1989). Human agency in social cognitive theory. American Psychologist, 44, 1175-1184.