How to choose the best online school for your child

If you’re uncertain whether online schooling in South Africa is a good option for your child, or which online school will be best for them, this checklist will help.

Before considering an online school, it’s important to consider your child and understand how they prefer to learn. Many children who have been unhappy in a bricks-and-mortar school thrive in an online school. 

 

Online schooling could, for instance, be a great option for students with learning difficulties who will benefit from having recorded lessons to go back to as often as they need to. Equally, we find that top students love the flexibility to streak ahead and challenge themselves. This is why all Teneo’s live classes are recorded and made available to students so that they can do revision at their own pace – another of the big advantages of online learning.



A checklist for choosing an online school

Whether you’ve decided on a real-time online school with live classes or a flexible programme where students are able to “attend” recorded classes in between other activities, asking these questions will help you to find the best option for your child.

1. Are the teachers qualified and do they receive ongoing training and support?

All teachers at legitimate schools have to be qualified and registered with the South African Council for Educators. Teneo assesses their staff on an ongoing basis by using pre- and post-moderation techniques. This ensures that the desired standards of teaching are maintained. 

 

When asking about teachers’ credentials, be specific and also check that the school is accredited with credible, legitimate examination boards. Teneo Online School is

registered with three different examination boards: SACAI and IEB for students following the South African curriculum and Pearson Edexcel for those who want to follow the British curriculum. All Teneo schools allow students to achieve the South African Matric NSC certificate and enable them to apply to tertiary institutions in South Africa and abroad.

 

2. What examples are there to show that the school puts students’ needs first?

When classes are led by qualified teachers and assignments and tests are set and marked by teachers, students will get personal feedback on each lesson and assignment to develop their unique learning pathway.

 

Communication with parents and students has to be open, regular and easy. As at any other school, online schools provide parents with regular feedback, so that you don’t have to wait until a parents’ meeting to get updates on your child’s progress. There are tools for tracking class attendance and assignment and exam results in real time. Teneo, for instance, has a dashboard where parents can keep track of a child’s progress. Once an account has been created, it can be accessed any time. 

 

In addition to academic feedback on progress and marks, Teneo schools’ Family Portal allows students and parents to log tickets for technical, academic and general support. This platform ensures that queries are answered as quickly as possible.

3. Aside from classes, how do I know that my child will be cared for?

Ask whether there are live lessons and that recording of these live lessons can be viewed on demand. Live lessons encourage teacher and pupil interaction and develop connections that are essential to learning and social development. If the school has a “cameras on” policy in all classes, as Teneo does, teachers will be able to see students’ body language and look out for changes in their behaviour.

 

This is just one way in which the best South African online schools can demonstrate that they put students’ intellectual, physical, social and emotional wellbeing first. Without live lessons and recorded lessons delivered by expert teachers, your child may struggle to achieve cognitive, intellectual and academic success. A well-established, well-run school will have the necessary processes, procedures and resources in place to ensure each student’s safety.

4. How does the school measure success?

Do teachers and the school board focus solely on academic marks and a 100% matric pass rate or do they also look beyond that to what is realistic for a student? Will they provide for gifted students to ensure that they remain engaged and challenged? And will they equip your child with more than academic knowledge to help them to grow into a well-rounded adult who can take their place in the world? The best online schools and colleges in South Africa will have addressed these concerns. 

5. Does the school also offer opportunities for social interaction with classmates and for pursuing other interests?

Like online meetings, online classes provide limited interaction with friends. Some online schools therefore offer the same extramural activities as bricks-and-mortar schools, for example, robotics, chess and drama. Others dedicate more time to group projects and virtual study groups.

 

Recordings of live teaching allow students to follow their interests, whether it’s participating in a sports event or acting in a TV series. In fact, many online school students are athletes, gymnasts, snooker champions and the like, and benefit from being able to study in their own time so that they will have time to also do the things they love. Naturally recorded lessons help all students to do revision when it suits them, even when they are in a different time zone.

 

In addition to social clubs, all Teneo students are allocated to a Homeroom classroom to meet with the teacher and class twice a week to do fun activities, share knowledge and news, celebrate birthdays or have a general check-in. The school’s community celebrates students as they interact and connect inside and outside the classroom. 

Why more and more parents and students are choosing an online school in South Africa

After parents and students were forced to turn to online schools during the Covid-19 lockdown, many now prefer them to bricks-and-mortar schools. Here are a few of the reasons for the growth of virtual schools in South Africa

Although online schools existed in South Africa before the country went into a Covid-19 lockdown, it’s undeniable that the pandemic brought them to the fore and allowed them to become mainstream options for schooling. Home schooling in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and all across South Africa has become more and more popular, with accredited courses online becoming a widely preferred way for students to matriculate.

 

Teneo Online School has experienced this rise in popularity. After starting with 85 students in 2018, the number of students increased to 5400 in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. By 2022 they had 9000 students and was registering 60 to 100 students per day for the 2023 academic year.

 

This makes Teneo one of the largest schools in the world and a pioneer in many regards. For example, Teneo has the widest subject choice in the country, provides schooling in two languages from Grade R to 12, and offers 100% live teaching by accredited professional teachers.

 

Two socio-economic factors driving the growth of online schools are semigration and concerns about the standard of education in government schools. Stats SA predicts that more than 620 000 people will move to the Western Cape in the next five years due to socio-economic reasons, and that 180000 of them will move to Hermanus. This clearly will create a problem of supply and demand, which is easily solved by online schools, with online school applications being open to a far greater volume of students.

 

A large percentage of government schools don’t provide the required standard of education, resulting in a huge skills gap in South Africa. Private schools are unaffordable for middle-class South Africans, and online schools have stepped into the gap by offering value for money education at more affordable fees.

 

Even without these practical reasons, there are four important reasons why parents and students are embracing online schools.

 

Quality of teaching 

Class size frequently is a problem in South Africa’s government schools, something that isn’t a factor at reputable online schools. The level of personal attention is supported by the calibre of the teachers: all are registered with the South African Council for Educators (SACE) and are frequently asked to mark Matric’s final examination papers. This may be one of the reasons South Africa’s top matriculant for 2022 came from Teneo – for the second year in a row.

 

The school’s standard of education is the same as that of “normal” schools, if not higher. Matsipa, a Teneo parent, posted on HelloPeter: “It is an exceptional experience to be a part of Teneo. The teachers are patient, acknowledge every child’s individuality and provide good guidance whilst nurturing them to be the best possible versions of themselves. My son has learned to work independently navigating the system and has blossomed into a goal-orientated, confident, compassionate, competent young man.”

Preparing students for the demands of the workplace

Technology has become part and parcel of corporate and similar professional jobs. The best onlines schools prepare students for this by making them comfortable with receiving instruction and delivering work online. It also teaches them how to act in a professional manner with superiors (teachers) and peers (classmates). 

 

Thanks to technology, eschools can record and pre-record lessons so that students can go over them as many times as they need to when doing revision. Pre-recorded lessons also form the backbone of Teneo’s Live + Recorded School which gives students the flexibility to learn at times that suit them.


This provides good learning ground for work where online meetings and webinars are commonplace, and time management is a vital soft skill.

Flexibility

Working from home during the Covid pandemic has shown many people the benefits of being able to manage their days around their own priorities. It is no different for students. 

 

Teneo’s Live and Recorded School Format is a good example of an online school that offers those who are pursuing other personal goals the flexibility they need. This hybrid model combines live and pre-recorded lessons to allow students to participate in scheduled live lessons according to a daily timetable, and for the other half of the day’s coursework, watch pre-recorded lessons. All live lessons are recorded to revisit later.

 

 

(Teneo’s Live School Format has a daily programme of live lessons, just like a conventional school, for those who prefer more structure.) All live lessons are recorded to revisit later.

Value for money

A 2022 analysis of enrolment data at Teneo Online School found that 94% of parents felt that online schooling provides better value for money than traditional bricks-and-mortar schools. 

 

Government schools’ fees, although affordable, aren’t all-inclusive and parents have to buy uniforms and stationery out of their own pocket, and pay for things like transport, outings and meals. Several of these additional expenses don’t apply in an online school. 

How the best online schools use technology to ensure that no student falls behind

The combination of live teaching and technology is helping online schools to become mainstream. For those who want to study online, South Africa is ahead of the curve with this offering. Here’s how Teneo applies this two-pronged approach for the benefit of all students.

All schools are using technology in one form or another. The only difference between an online school and a traditional bricks-and-mortar school is that online or eschools teach through technology while traditional schools teach with technology.

 

This is an important distinction when it comes to preparing students for life as a tertiary student and for the modern workplace. 

How Teneo uses technology

For starters, all lessons are made available to students as recordings. The Teneo Live classes follow a timetable and are presented live by a professional teacher whereafter recordings are distributed. The option of Live + Recorded School Format follows a hybrid approach and combines prerecorded lessons for “attending” any time with live classes where students can ask questions and get teacher support. 

 

In a 2023 poll among students, 83% said that they use the recordings because they make it easier to take notes and allow them to revise the work and go over topics they struggle with. Several also indicated that they like the fact that they can view the recordings as slow – or as fast – as they want. Overall, this technology makes for a better online learning experience for a variety of reasons.

The role of teachers in a tech-based online school

Technology will never replace teachers. Instead, it enhances the teaching experience. Think of a typical classroom in a traditional school where students at the front can see a science experiment from close up and therefore benefit more than those at the back. In an online class, there aren’t any back rows; everyone is in the front row, in front of their computer screen, and the student’s experience with online learning is inclusive and engaging.

 

Teneo’s teachers use technology as a tool to enhance the online learning experience for students by, for instance, adding music and playing videos in slow motion or using replays. 

 

Each of Teneo’s nearly 500 teachers has the same responsibility as a teacher at any other school: to facilitate students’ academic journeys and help them to complete it successfully. As such, their duties are to:

 

  • Create and present accurate and informative content
  • Provide guidance and support to students and parents
  • Track academic progress
  • Evaluate student work
  • Communicate regularly with students
  • Participate in regular training and professional development
  • Be available for parent-teacher meetings 
Using technology to help struggling students

Parents are encouraged to monitor attendance and track assignment and test scores to ensure students stay on track with their studies.  There are extra curricular programmes for struggling students to assist their classroom learning with our carefully selected external partners, such as Reflective Learning and Eye Brain Gym.  Tutors also help to close learning gaps if students need to catch up in certain areas.

 

“Our strengths lie in our ability to track participation via all the data we have on students’ class attendance and marks. Parents have the ability to monitor the participation and results of their child and allows the parent and student to take proactive steps to help improve,” says Academic Lead, Paula van Berkel.

Why students enjoy learning through technology

When Teneo asked parents of their students, 97% agreed that experience with online learning helps children to become more autonomous. This is especially true of those students who are using recorded lessons and following a flexible timetable that gives them more time for other pursuits and passions like sport or theatre or even a small business or part-time job.

Claude, a parent of one of our students, wrote on HelloPeter: “My son has flourished personally and academically. The teaching methods have taught him time-management skills, self-discipline and the importance of research. In addition, he’s learnt to deal with challenges out of his control and taking accountability for it such as his internet connection and loadshedding issues by ensuring that he communicates such issues with his teachers and the support team on time. Thank you to all for contributing to my son’s education and development.”

 

Children with learning difficulties appreciate the recorded lessons provided by Teneo, as do those with ADHD. Learners coming from traditional schools where they were bullied or made to feel deeply anxious by classmates or even teachers take comfort in the online space where they feel safe.

Teachers vs tech when it comes to setting and marking exam papers

Teneo’s teachers set all exam papers and mark them. Like live teaching, this is crucial for tracking students’ academic progress and identifying problem areas or students who may be falling behind.

 

It’s essential that the teacher who teaches a specific subject and class sets the paper. Their knowledge of the curriculum, subject and students allows them to set the exam at the right level and to reflect what the students have been taught. In a country such as South Africa, it also is important to take students’ lived realities into account and use examples or situations that they are familiar with when setting a test or exam.

A day in the life of a Grade 12 online high school student.

We asked Cheyenne Victor, one of our online students, how she structures her school day.

Cheyenne Victor is a Grade 12 high school student  and joined Teneo Online School three years ago at the start of Grade 10. 

 

She is a keen photographer and her Instagram feed is filled with wildlife photos taken in the veld. No wonder, then, that she is going to do a three-year course that combines marine guiding with game-ranging, to pursue her love of wildlife and nature as a career.

 

As Cheyenne heads towards her matric exams, we asked her about her experience at Teneo and how she structures her school days.

What a school day looks like for Cheyenne

Cheyenne moved to Teneo at the start of her Grade 10 year and registered in Teneo’s live School that has a daily programme of live lessons.

 

Let’s take a look at what a typical school day looks like for Cheyenne:

 

6:30 am: Wake up.

7:00 am: Dress, breakfast and get ready. 

7.30 am: Go to sit at my desk, open my calendar on Teneo and put on music to relax. 

7:35 – 7:55 am: Listen to music and jot down important things to do that day.

8:00 am: Attend the first class of the day.

2:15 pm: School’s out!

3 – 4 pm: Go to gym or relax and prepare for the next day.

9 pm: Bedtime.

 

“Then I start all over again at 6:30 the next morning,” she says.

 

This timetable evolved as Cheyenne learnt what didn’t work for her. “I don’t think students who are new to online schooling realise it is a strain on your eyes to be in front of a computer all day. When I started at Teneo, I’d be in front of my laptop all the time and didn’t allow myself to take breaks. Although it looks as if I still sit at my desk from 7:30 am until 2:15 pm, I’ve learnt that I have to go outside every now and then to rest my eyes.”

 

She says she really does go to bed at nine o’clock: “If I don’t get a good night’s sleep, the next day is really tough.” For her, that’s part of the discipline needed to make a success of online schooling. 

Flexibility combined with discipline makes all the difference to the online learning experience

She first saw how online schooling works when visiting a friend during Covid lockdown and therefore had an idea of what to expect: “And yet I was surprised by the extent to which I could determine my own schedule with a routine that works for me.”

 

“As much as we have timetables, I decide what to do during those periods when I don’t have lessons,” Cheyenne explains. “Most of the time I’d use them to do assignments, but it does break up my day and allow me more free time than I had had in my previous bricks-and-mortar school. I also use this time to chat with friends and have lunch.

 

“But even so, I have to bite the bullet and accept that I still am in school. You’re forced to be disciplined in an online environment. If you don’t, you won’t get far.”

 

Much as she understands the importance of discipline, her experience of online schooling has allowed her to fit school into her family’s lifestyle and timetable. Her father works in Zambia where Cheyenne now lives. In the past, his leave didn’t coincide with her school holidays and she either had to either miss out on a family holiday or on school. Now she can do both.

 

Being in an online eschool also allows her to pursue her photography. “I sell my photographs which I take on our trips to Namibia and Botswana. There is a photo of me with my tablet, attending school while out in the veld.”

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