How Online Clubs Help Students Connect with Their Peers

« Back  |  

It is a common misconception that online high school students miss out on the socialization component that a traditional school offers. However, students are breaking down the digital barrier and proving that participating in online clubs actually enhances the socialization aspect of virtual schooling.

Kathleen Hofmaier, an English teacher at ASU Prep Digital, has witnessed firsthand how joining online clubs has had a positive impact on how her students interact with one another.

“I’m actually an advisor for five online clubs for high school students — Student Government, Journalism/Yearbook Club, Exploring Western Religion Club, Mythology Club, and Book Club,” Hofmaier said. “Students have interests and they want to socialize, so I want to help them in any way that I can.”

Just as traditional schools have clubs that students can participate in, online schools offer the same opportunity to their students. While students may not be meeting face-to-face, they are still just as engaged and excited to connect with their peers.

“The clubs we have are a blend of both teacher initiated and student-initiated,” Hofmaier said. “Students are willing, able, and eager to start clubs that they have a specific interest in and it’s exciting to see them take the initiative.”

In fact, she has helped foster friendships in the clubs she advises because she loves seeing her students getting to know each other outside of their club interactions.

“The student who started the Mythology club, Alexandra Smith, refers to herself as a ‘dragon nerd.’ Her willingness to be so vulnerable and ask for friends is really inspiring,” Hofmaier said. “We had a student enroll late who also claimed to be a ‘dragon nerd’ and I just knew I had to connect them. I helped facilitate the exchanging of emails and now they’re great friends.”

Each club meets once a week over Adobe Connect, a video conference service, which gives students the chance to see and talk to their peers in real time. But is participation in these clubs really enhancing the academic experience for students?

“I definitely see it positively impacting their academic performance,” Hofmaier said. “Because we are spending two to three days a week together, they know they have to have their schoolwork done ahead of time!”

She has also seen her students’ involvement in extracurricular activities help improve their confidence, which has contributed to their success in the classroom.

“I did have one student, Avvy, who was borderline academically–and then he joined student government,” Hofmaier said. “He was at a traditional school last year and ran for vice president and lost, so he was determined to be vice president this time around. We had an election, which he won, and ever since then, he has been phenomenal. He feels empowered and it’s been pretty cool to witness.”

The online learning environment is truly transforming and expanding the idea of socialization.

Since students don’t need to physically sit in class on a weekly basis, it puts the responsibility of engaging with their fellow peers in the students’ hands. While many of them attend their clubs once a week and are content with that amount of interaction, there are some students that go above and beyond.

“Hannah Stewart is the president of our student government and she really wants to get students together and have more of a community. She actually put together this huge proposal for an end of year trip, and I was so impressed with the amount of depth and effort she executed while doing this,” Hofmaier said. “She came up with a trip to San Diego where we visit the museums, tour the different campuses and then maybe do a fun activity, like Disneyland or SeaWorld. Even though it was postponed until next year, it was definitely cool to see them rally together and come up with this proposal for an end of the year trip.”

Attending an online high school puts the power of socialization in the students’ hands and helps them pave the way for a successful high school experience both academically and socially.

Visit our resources page for more information on all of the clubs available to students at ASU Prep Digital.

How to Encourage Your Introverted Student to Engage Socially

« Back  |  

Help Your Introverted Student Connect At School and In An Online Learning Environment

We all remember how nerve-racking it was to try and make friends in high school. You would sit next to someone you thought looked friendly and strike up a conversation, hoping your efforts would be reciprocated. With online learning, this task gets a little tougher, especially for introverts. Because they don’t have to physically interact with their peers, it’s easy for introverted students to shy away from engaging socially outside of the online classroom. However, socialization is an important aspect of education, whether a student is physically on campus or in the comfort of their home classroom. Here are four ways you can encourage your introverted student to engage socially with their online high school peers:

Tap Into Their Interests

Introverts are obviously more naturally reserved, so encourage them to engage in activities that not only align with their interest but foster collaboration. By encouraging your student to pursue an activity that is related to one of their interests, you’re gently pushing them toward social interaction while allowing them to feel a sense of familiarity. Do they love reading? Maybe you can suggest joining or starting a book club with fellow students who also love to read. Do they like to write? Maybe they can team up with their peers to start a monthly student newsletter. At ASU Prep Digital, we offer eight clubs that tap into several different interests our students have, so there’s a little something for everyone.

Understand Their Limitations

Generally, introverts tend to feel drained after spending a lot of time around other people and in busy social situations.Do they interact better in a smaller group of people? Do they do better with 1-on-1 interactions? How much alone time do they need to recharge their social batteries? Working with their limitations will not only help them enjoy being social, but also want to be social.  Forcing them to interact with fellow virtual school students will make it feel like a chore and they’ll be less likely to have meaningful interactions.

Remind Them That Friendships Are a Two-Way Street

Introverts are content with keeping to themselves, which doesn’t always translate well in friendships. Building a friendship requires talking regularly, reaching out to make plans and, yes—actually following through on those plans. While introverts are actually great friends once you get to know them and develop a foundation, they have a hard time putting in the effort that building a friendship takes. If your child or introverted student expresses concerns about engaging socially with their peers, be sure to remind them that friendships truly are a two-way street and that in order to make those meaningful connections they desire, they’ll have to put some effort in and invest time into getting to know people.

Team Up With Their Teacher

The adult that spends a significant amount of time interacting with your child, aside from you, is their online high school teacher. If you’re having a hard time getting through to your introverted student, or just want some reinforcement, reaching out to your child’s teacher is a great idea. They want to see their students succeed in all aspects of their educational journey—and socialization is a huge component. While you can encourage social interaction outside of the virtual classroom environment, their teacher can encourage social interaction during live class sessions by actively engaging with them and gently pushing them to speak up more. They can even help facilitate group projects and make sure they’re pairing introverts with other students they’ll click with. At ASU Prep Digital, we also pair every student with a Learning Success Coach who is dedicated to helping them with support and goal setting. Including them in the conversation will ensure that your child is given opportunities to socialize from all of the adults in their life whom they interact with and admire.

5 Myths About Socialization While Learning Online

« Back  |  

Socialization in Online Learning

As enrollment in online schools continues to grow, so do misconceptions about how students socialize in the world of online education. We took it upon ourselves to seek out five of the most common myths about socialization in online learning — and then debunked them.

Myth #1: Students never see their teachers face to face.

Even though most interaction in an online class takes place virtually, there are plenty of opportunities and resources for students to communicate directly with their peers and teachers. First of all, most online programs offer instructor to student ratios of 1:25 or better, which is on par with college campuses. This gives instructors more opportunities to interact with each of their pupils individually.

When it comes to interaction, most online instructors today embrace high-tech tools in order to engage directly with their students. In addition to email and phone communication, many students are encouraged to speak one-on-one with their teachers through Skype, Google Hangouts, or another video chat platform. Instructors are also known to host chat video sessions with their class and even hold weekly online office hours to make it easier for students to reach out to them directly.

Myth #2: Students only communicate with teachers and rarely with their classmates.

A significant worry when it comes to socialization in online learning environments is that students won’t have opportunities to socialize with their peers. However, most online courses use technology to create group projects that require collaboration among students. Online resources like Google Drive allow students to share documents and work on projects together in real time. Online educators often assign projects and coursework that encourages this kind of interaction among their students. Building this kind of interactivity into the curriculum helps spur socialization among classmates, like forming online study groups or even chatting outside of the educational sphere.

Myth #3: Online learning doesn’t offer student activities or clubs.

If clubs and extracurricular involvement are a priority in your education, then we’ve got good news for you. Despite the misconception that online education limits students to do coursework independently, most online programs are enhanced by web-based, student-formed clubs and groups that meet regularly. Regardless of where you enroll in online education, chances are that you’re entering into an established community of active student-led clubs and interest groups. These groups focus on everything from career advancement to community involvement and usually involve weekly chat sessions as well as video lectures by both faculty and industry professionals.

In addition to online clubs and societies, there are often opportunities for involvement in established campus societies at the accredited institution that offers online programming. For example, ASU Prep Digital students have the opportunity to participate in Arizona State University clubs and extracurriculars like the National Honor Society, Speech and Debate Club, Student Government, and Book and Art Clubs either online or on campus. Participation in these activities is one, of several, ways that students can access opportunities for socialization in online learning environments. 

Myth #4: Students in online learning environments aren’t exposed to diversity.

One of the great benefits of any campus experience is the exposure to a student body brimming with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. One concern with online education as that confining most of the educational experience to a computer screen will cut a student off from the diverse community they would find at a brick-and-mortar high school campus. The reality is that online programs not only offer similar diversity as their physical counterparts, but they also offer a kind of diversity not found at typical campuses. Students of online courses come from across the world, so in many ways, these digital environments attune students to a more globalized mindset.

Myth #5: Online education doesn’t prepare students for social interactions in the “real world.”

Not only do online courses from reputable institutions have the same curriculum and material as their brick and mortar counterparts, but they also require additional self-direction when it comes to communication. With fewer reminders about due dates and course expectations, students must take time management into their own hands and be more proactive about engaging with their teachers and peers in order to succeed. Also, since online classes force teachers to think differently about communication, it often leads them to be more active and creative in effectively engaging with their students. Ultimately, communicating primarily through the virtual space mimics the way students will communicate with peers and colleagues in the professional world after they graduate.


How to Convince Your Kid to Take a Summer Course

« Back  |  

You know the drill. Your kids come running through the door after the last day of school and everything changes. Evenings once spent huddled around the kitchen table working on class projects are now filled with video games and binge-watching television. Family conversations about newly learned topics are replaced with scrolling through social media and taking a puzzling amount of selfies. How do you get your teen to trade in their phone for a textbook during their beloved off-time? Here are five ways you can position summer courses as a fun activity rather than an eye-rolling bore.

Summer courses are an excuse for your teen to see more of their friends.

Most teens love a packed social calendar. It can feel like your home has a revolving door! What if you could give your kids two thumbs up whenever they asked to see their friends? By convincing pals to join along in summer classes, your teen is guaranteeing hang time while you secure study time. Studying with friends is proven more beneficial than studying alone. It’s a win-win!

Not only can summer school up your teen’s GPA, it can also make summer more fun!

Would you like to see your teen’s GPA kicked up a notch? Create a grade point goal together that adds plenty of incentive for your student. Whether it’s a fun activity, new gadget or cash, providing a reward will keep your teen hungry to impress you. When the goal is reached, you have a fun reason to celebrate together. Tip: By completing classes online with programs like those offered by ASU Prep Digital, your teen can work on boosting grades from the comfort of the couch.

Summer classes can inspire your teen to pursue their greatest passions.

If your child is on the fence about taking a summer class, try exploring classes that tickle your teen’s curiosity. Instead of predictable courses like math or English, test their interest in a foreign language, music, or art class. You might light a passionate fire in your teen that would have otherwise never been discovered. And through concurrent enrollment, they can earn college credit, to boot.

Taking classes during the summer can send a teen off to college early.

Is your teen eager to throw that graduation cap in the air and head to college?  By earning credit over the summer, your child is one step closer to high school graduation. Colleges will respect your student’s academic commitment, too. The number of acceleratory summer school participants is increasing all over the country, but especially in areas where college admittance is competitive. Summer classes bring your student one step closer to a college campus (and your house one step closer to some well-earned peace and quiet).

Use summer school as an excuse to bond with your children.

Summer classes don’t have to be a wedge between you and your teen. Instead, use the experience as an opportunity to grow closer as peers. This article from CNN notes, “Too often, learning is about having the ‘right’ answer, and adults are the keepers of knowledge. Instead of always being the expert, be an explorer with your kid and let them teach you along the way.” Find topics that neither of you are savvy about and attend classes that allow you to learn together. Teens are notorious for pushing parents away, so this creates a special time for just the two of you.

If you need help convincing your teen that summer school is the way to go, check out Why Summer School Isn’t a Bummer.



Why Summer School Isn’t Such a Bummer

« Back  |  

Your locker is cleared out and your friends dash to their respective cars and buses. Final exams are turned in. The once overflowing hallways are now empty. It’s official, summer has arrived!

For many students, education comes to a screeching halt. Study halls and presentations are replaced with SPF and video games. For some, though, this lull between grades means summer school. Does combining the words summer and school make your stomach drop? Here’s why school could actually be the coolest thing you do this summer.

Hang Time

What if every time you asked your parents if you could hang with your friends, they excitedly said yes? By convincing your friends to take summer classes with you, you have a built-in excuse to spend time together (studying, of course). Your parents will gain respect for your academically motivated friend, too. This respect leads to more trust in your judgment and peers. And those brownie points can come in awful handy the next time you ask for a later curfew!

Set Yourself Up for Travel

Do you have dreams of traveling the globe when you graduate? By taking concurrent enrollment courses over the summer, you can earn high school and college credit. And that means you’ll be working toward giving your future college schedule some breathing room. Time that would have been spent propping open your eyelids at an 8 a.m. English class can instead be used to take an international adventure. Travel becomes difficult once you’re out of school, but if you plan for it ahead of time you avoid missing out on the opportunity.

Boost GPA

Summer school still carries a negative connotation for some. Those people need to get with the times! While summer school was once seen as a tool for underperforming students, it’s now used by high-achieving learners to accelerate their academic careers. By completing classes online, you can bump your GPA while staying in your pajamas and blasting your favorite playlist (or re-watching your favorite series for the 50th time.)

Avoid Learning Loss

Did you know that the typical student loses about two months’ worth of educational skills during the summer months? For all the stress and studying you put into the school year, all that hard-earned brain power is worth maintaining. Keep your mind sharp and your skills honed, so when the first day of school arrives, you fall right into the rhythm. No beats skipped.

Finish Sooner

Are you ready to trade in your high school locker for a college dorm? By earning credit over the summer, you are one step closer to high school graduation. The college you have your eye on will certainly notice your academic drive, as well. In areas where college admissions are competitive, the number of acceleratory summer school participants is on the rise. Which means you’ll be in great company (see #1 on this list).

3 Tips for Helping Your Child Succeed in Their Online Course

« Back  |  

Why is it that in elementary school parents show up in droves to volunteer baked goods, chaperone a field trip or attend a PTA meeting, but by high school, it’s like POOF… parents take a back seat and are more hands off? Well, it’s time to reclaim the front seat! Parent engagement in high school is crucial in helping students succeed, especially in an online course. 

Here are our most important tips for helping your child succeed in an online course:


Create a “Dedicated Learning Space”

Will the couch work? Not so much! While your child might pick a busy place in the home, ideally he or she will need a dedicated work space that is devoted to their online learning. No dedicated office space? No problem! Setting up something as simple as a card table in the spare bedroom with a notebook, pencils and other needed supplies will suffice. The point is that your child actually “goes to school” in that space, literally! One of our ASU Prep Digital students rides his bike to a local Starbucks once a week to do his work, and on another day spends time at his dad’s office to complete school work. Finding a learning space that works for your child may take some trial and error, but it’s worth the time to find dedicated space.

Set a Weekly Schedule

Sounds so simple, right? For many online students, keeping a schedule is one of the hardest transitions because, in a traditional school, your time is set by the bell. Helping your child set up a weekly schedule is time-consuming, but after a few weeks of helping, you can then empower them to do it themselves. A weekly schedule should be very detailed, down to the exact hour they will work and what they will achieve. For example, here is a typical Monday schedule for one of our full-time Freshmen at ASU Prep Digital:


  • 8:00-9:00am: Alarm goes off, shower, breakfast, chores
  • 9:00-10:00am: Attend Algebra 1 Live Lesson
  • 10:00-11:00am: Work on History project and turn it in today
  • 11:00-12:00pm: Lunch
  • 12:00-2:00pm: Call Mrs. Safi about English paper due Friday and work on rough draft
  • 2:00-3:00pm: Complete Unit 1 Lesson 2 in Leadership
  • 3:00-4:00pm: Attend History Live Lesson
  • 4:00pm: Read e-mail messages from school then free time!

Part-time students typically carve out about 45 minutes a day during the week or a few chunks of time over the weekend to complete coursework. Regardless of whether they’re taking one or all of their classes online, the key to success is helping your child not just block out time for each subject but also set specific assignments and projects to complete. Each online course will typically provide a pace chart, which will help to determine their weekly schedule. Be engaged, follow up with them, and make them show you what they’ve done. Trust, but verify!

Need help getting started? Download a copy of our free weekly calendar template here. Just print, fill the in blanks and you’re off and running!

Student Communicating with Instructor on Their Mobile Phone


Communicate, Communicate, Communicate (Call, Text or Email the Online Instructor)

“Say what? But my child is 17 years old!” So what! Call the teacher!  

At ASU Prep Digital, the teacher will most likely call you before you even realize your child is placed in an online course, but if you haven’t spoken directly with the teacher yet, pick up the phone! Opening the lines of communication between the instructor and you is a crucial component to helping your child succeed because YOU know your child best. In that first conversation share everything you know: How does he learn best? Does she have an IEP or need accommodations? What does he like to do outside of school? Most importantly, find out how you—the parent—can best support your child. Is there a pacing guide you can print out? Are there live classes held, and if so, what day and time? Are there extra help sessions available if your child gets stuck?  

The fact that you’re reading a blog post about how to help your child succeed is a good indication that you are already supporting and advocating for their academic success. If your child hasn’t already done so, I thank you. They’re lucky to have you! Kids (even high school kids) need support. They really, really do. While the tendency to be more “hands off” in high school is the norm these days, continue to empower your child to succeed.

The best way to start is with a clear schedule. Download a copy of our free weekly planning calendar here.



Originally published September 18, 2017

ASU Prep Digital COO Discusses Online Education on EdChoice Chats Podcast

« Back  |  

Earlier this year ASU Prep Digital COO, Amy McGrath, sat down with Mike McShane from the EdChoice Chats Podcast to discuss online learning, policy and the mission of ASU Prep Digital.

McShane and McGrath had a great conversation, really shedding light on what it is like to start a new learning option for students in our current education landscape. To hear the full episode, visit the EdChoice website or check it out on iTunes

Mike McShane: “I’m curious, you’ve been involved in this space and you’ve lived in these. Just given this particular venture, I would love to know sort of what were the hardest thing that you all have had to overcome. I know you’re sort of early in the process now, but to actually get this thing up and running, what were some hurdles that you had to clear?”

Amy McGrath: “It continues to be a hurdle, and I think that’s because most of what works right now for students at scale is tied and anchored to a school model that I think there are really great school models out there and some progressive leaders in the space. But to truly focus on the learner as opposed to the actual system, the machine, it gets very difficult to plug into that. So creating these complex adaptive systems from a technology standpoint that can kind of jump in with the students and the entry point is the school, there tends to be friction there. Not even from the people, just from the actual system.

So that would probably be one of the many, but when we talk about how online kind of permeates all of the different ways that students learn, that’s been the bright spot. Kids are coming to us and we’re seeking out a lot of student feedback in terms of this is how we want to learn; this is what we want learning to look like. We know we’re moving in the right direction, I think it’s the adults that kind of have to figure it all out, but the kids have already figured it out.”

Mike McShane: “Sure, no absolutely. And I’m curious on the policy front, obviously, we here at EdChoice do a lot of writing about and researching policy, a lot of my background comes from doing research on policy. Are there sort of concretely maybe two or three sort of policy barriers that you run into? I know as you mentioned, there’s culture barriers and there’s sort of systemic issues, but are there specific policies that make your life difficult?”

Amy McGrath: “I think part of that is us demonstrating a progressive model that we hope policy will follow. Arizona is really nice in terms of the landscape there and offers quite a bit of autonomy. I’m thinking right now of our ESA situation right now and we’ve got some of our students that are actually leveraging the empowerment scholarship, so I think we have some small wins there but we’d like to see more volume behind that. And additionally, I think we’re really after kind of the student-centered decisions, and part of that will be students being able to make a decision based on the right instructional choice for them. And that might be parents doing that as well, and so what does that look like from a policy standpoint?

In Florida we had, when we established Florida Virtual School, we had the backing of the legislature and that was very helpful for us. And a part of our growth, our spike in enrollment, was really due to the fact that we worked with the legislature on this and a law was passed for all students in high school to take an online course before graduating. And so, of course, we saw kind of an avalanche from that. There are various pieces of policy that will drive us forward from an enrollment standpoint, but we’re also very hopeful that we’re going to see some legislation that backs kind of a “move on when ready” and “advance when ready” type of mentality where students are not tied to seek time, rather performance.”

Listen to the full episode here. To learn more about ASU Prep Digital courses, visit