Online schooling is somehow similar to homeschooling because they both take place in the comfort of the child’s home. However, they are not the same. The major difference between them is who delivers and manages the content; with homeschooling this is the responsibility of parent or guardian but with online schooling the school is responsible for meeting compulsory education requirements.

For an online school student, the computer is a very important tool that enables her/him to access all kinds of online support (teachers, lectures, multimedia, etc.) but at the end it is all up to the student to successfully utilize these resources. An online school has also an actual campus where students can go for sports, arts, music, field trips and enrichment activities. By joining these activities students can make friends and socialize with peers. The K-12 standards-based curriculum extends beyond the traditional classroom to a team of teachers and a network of worldwide resources.

After this short introduction, let us start our interview with Meriam:

First of all, can you introduce yourself to our readers please? 

My name is Meriam Salameh and I am 15 years old. I live in Hawaii with my family, a loving mother and father and two younger brothers. I am originally from Palestine but was born and raised here in Hawaii. While searching for the best high school to go to after middle school, I came across Myron B. Thompson Academy (MBTA). Some of my friends went to this school and told me about it. I went to their web site and called the school to ask all the questions I had in my mind. After receiving the answers I realized that I really liked their teaching methods and decided to continue my education with them. Now I really like my school.

Could you tell us about the online school system?

MBTA is an innovative and competency-based K-12 public charter school that provides high quality standards-based curriculum to all students across the state. As a school for anyone, anytime, MBTA offers greater flexibility for students in a non-traditional, educational environment. The school’s goal is to work closer with its students to provide high quality education. Their system has been very effective for me to concentrate and learn new things. The teachers are always there; online and ready for me when I need help. There are also many resources to get help and I always do.

Did your online school provide you with anything? 

The school only provided me with a laptop, it’s mine till the end of the year.

What is the difference between a regular school and an online-school? 

The only difference for me is that in a regular school I had many people around me. When I had a question, I would get the answer without any effort. This was like the easy way out of school or class or any assignment. And now in this online school everything depends on me. It’s only me and the work. I have no one around me when I have a question. Now I take my time and try to really think about the problem I have to solve. If I really can’t then I go to my teacher and ask for help. I can also ask my classmates (there is a chat area where I can get help from my classmates who are taking the same class as I am). MBTA is like the hard way out of school because it pushes me to think and use my own brain but I definitely learn more.  

Do you think it’s better to be home rather than being in a school?  

Actually, I love being outside, spending time with my friends, talking to people and answering questions about Islam. This happens less in online school, but I still have the opportunity to do the things I love in my spare time. I also participate in various community services for my school.

Tell us about the easy and difficult sides of online schooling? 

The advantages of online schooling is that in the morning my brothers are off to school so it is peaceful and quiet. I am able to help my mom around the house in the morning, and I get to spend more time with them. Also if I study hard online schooling allows me to get ahead of my schedule. The difficult side is that I have to sit down and watch the screen for a good amount of hours.

How do you determine what to study and how to study on a daily basis? 

It’s all the same thing as school, teachers provide the work, there are contents we go over to understand what we do, we have live classes where our teacher talks about our assignments, they keep us updated, and we can email them at any time. We have a username and password to sign into our accounts, which takes me to the moodle page, which is where I can find all my classes and a calendar which tells me when every assignment for every class is due and when we don’t have school and things like that. Also the moodle page is where I can open my e-mail to check if I have any messages from the school or my teachers. Then for each class, it has its own page where I can see my assignments for the week and the following week, has all the information I need. It’s all organized pretty well so I am able to write down my schedule for the week and what assignments I have to do each day.

Who tests you about what you have learned and who grades them for you? 

I have teachers for each class; I have quizzes and unit exams that test me on what I have learned and am learning. You may think that it is easy to cheat. Just grab the answers from another web site right? But at the end of the year I take a face-to-face final exam on everything I learned at the school. I take each and every assignment seriously because it’s the whole point of joining this school in the first place. My teachers grade all the work I submit.

Do you use your laptop other than homework? 

This laptop isn’t only for school work. When I am done with my homework, I sometimes watch movies, talk to my friends or play games. 

Thank you for your valuable time Meriam. Hopefully this chat will be helpful for our readers in their decision making who are considering online schooling.

Interviewed by Filiz Arslan

March 2010

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