Parent orientation is not an easy process, as it requires constant communication, a great deal of transparency, and a willingness to meet families where they are. There are additional challenges if your students are online.

Research has repeatedly illustrated that having family support is one of the most important factors in helping students succeed in online learning environments (Kong & Wang, 2021; Kumi-Yeboah, Dogbey, & Yuan, 2018; Park & Choi, 2009). Parents often need just as much training as their children when it comes to understanding the intricacies of online learning. How can parents support their children if they are also new to this learning environment? How can they create a parental support network if they’re new to a school community that might be more geographically spread out?

To address this challenge, Davidson Academy Online developed a parent orientation program that begins even before students begin their school year. chris montgomery smgtvepind4 unsplashThe parent orientation program has received positive feedback from parents and it’s something that any school can replicate or adopt in their own way. The first step is to regularly host virtual Open Houses, where interested families can learn more about your school and ask questions about things such as curriculum, where to find information, and student services. Traditional Open Houses have been shown to be a useful strategy in fostering partnerships with families (Glasgow & Whitney, 2009). A best practice for online Open Houses is to feature a panel of current teachers, students, and parents, giving potential applicants direct access to members of your school community. Having a panel of parents available that are able to speak from experience, offering advice to potential families about how to navigate your policies and procedures can help to build a bridge toward positive relationships with new families. By prioritizing parents’ voices during Open Houses, you highlight your emphasis on becoming partners in the task of educating your students. dad2

Another helpful tool is a Welcome Website which should contain important dates, the textbook list, curricular information, information about opportunities for parents to interreact and who to contact with questions. You can also send them new family newsletters in an effort to keep them abreast of school news and happenings.

I recommend continuing parent orientations during the summer, with the faculty and staff hosting a variety of informational meetings. Some meetings that have been helpful include a STEM Overview and Humanities Overview. These overviews give families specific information about curricular sequences, common departmental practices, and hints and tips about how to be successful in online classes. These meetings should be hosted largely by the teachers, giving new families a chance to connect with the professionals who will be working with their children on a daily basis

The final steps of parent orientation occur as school begins, with a fully online Back to School Day, a new parent check-in meeting early in the fall, and monthly meetings thereafter with the rest of the parent community.

The results of a well-planned parent orientation program are a vibrant learning community and a group of parents who are eager to partner with school leadership. Parent orientations are well worth the effort, and I know it will make a difference in your online program.

Author: Dr. Jessica Potts, Curriculum Coordinator at Davidson Academy Online

Published on:  November 29, 2022

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Glasgow, N. & Whitney, P. J. (2009). What successful schools do to involve families : 55 partnership strategies. Corwin Press.Kong, S., & Wang, Y. (2021). The influence of parental support and perceived usefulness on students’ learning motivation and flow experience in visual programming: Investigation from a parent perspective. British Journal of Educational Technology, 52(4), 1749–1770.

Kumi-Yeboah, A.,  Dogbey, J., & Yuan, G. (2018). Exploring Factors That Promote Online Learning Experiences and Academic Self-Concept of Minority High School Students. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 50(1), 1–17.

Park, J.-H., & Choi, H. J. (2009). Factors Influencing Adult Learners’ Decision to Drop Out Persist in Online Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 12(4), 207–217.