Students Thrive Online in Unexpected Ways

Some Online Enrichment Programs are Stronger Than Before COVID-19

When schools closed abruptly in 2020 and moved to online instruction, many parents became sudden home school tutors. Kids missed face-to-face social interaction. Educators worried about how to help students who were falling behind.

Things weren’t easy. As a result, remote learning has become a euphemism of sorts for the crash course in online education that no one was ready for in 2020.

But some programs can actually be even better online— enrichment classes being one of them. Just as enrichment programs augment traditional student learning, virtual features can enhance after-school programs.

While IMACS has offered online classes for advanced middle and high school students for over twenty years, our Math Enrichment program was only available in person in select cities throughout the U.S. But in 2020, during our 28th year of classes, that all changed—as it did for the rest of the world. 

Necessity truly is the mother of invention: we had to evolve. So we merged our entire Math Enrichment program and our Computer Programming curriculum with the best parts of online education. All of our programs have now been online for a couple of years, and we are delighted with the results. Just like a proud parent, we want to tell you some of the benefits of our new IMACS Live! program—and of online enrichment programs in general.

Engagement. In many virtual classes, particularly online STEM classes, there’s no place for lectures. Students become active participants, not passive observers.

Virtual classes can take on a multi-modal approach. For instance, IMACS Live! students learn from a wide range of activities that not only keep their interest, but also meet varying learning styles. Presented by expertly trained instructors, lessons include:

  • short, upbeat and engaging videos,
  • hands-on competitions and games,
  • interactive worksheets,
  • virtual white boards,
  • illustrations and 
  • other experiential activities.

IMACS has created a top-notch online platform … Their online classes are very interactive and never redundant. My son has flourished. Not only is he gaining academic skills, he is also loving each class. A win-win!

Rosemary Biggar
Parent, Florida

These teaching methods often interact with each other, creating a dynamic learning experience.

IMACS was created by and is run by educators who are also computer scientists. As a result, our technology is not cookie cutter. The learning environment is built to the precise needs of our curriculum.

Instant feedback. Rather than wait for classwork and homework to be graded, students know if their work is right or wrong as soon as they hit submit. They can fix any mistake before the concept is out of sight and out of mind. IMACS students have the option of receiving hints on certain questions—the same hints our instructors have been giving in person for years. 

Gamification grabs students’ attention and nudges them towards performance goals. Moving through levels of increasing challenge, while earning points and badges, gives kids a sense of accomplishment.

Games have always been an integral part of IMACS curricula, and now they are even more interactive and rewarding. Students accumulate points for winning games—as well as participating in classwork, completing homework and solving puzzles. Our U.S. students may use those points to shop at our online store, which contains an assortment of fun games and puzzles. International students may trade points for gift cards.

Inspired by the Pokémon series, students also collect badges (such as Hot Shot or Best Day Ever) for completing tasks or winning games. A student needs to collect a certain number of badges to qualify for a new league. The challenge and reward makes kids excited to do their homework and see their names on the leaderboard.

Positive social interactions. The best classes, whether online or in person, allot time for students to interact with each other. IMACS kids play team games and work on common goals together. Right from the first day of class, we love to see kids compare experiences with kids in other timezones across the country—and even the world. 

It’s almost dinnertime.

It’s already dark over here!

I just woke up!

Another thing to consider: there’s no back row on Zoom. When a student is called upon, she pops up right on screen. Many kids who are on the shy side or tend towards hyperactivity thrive in an online environment. Students are often more comfortable speaking up from home and far less likely to be distracted by their peers online. Teachers can’t put a disruptive student on mute in person, but they sure can online.

Convenience comes in multiple forms. It probably goes without saying that online education is way more convenient: no more commuting or waiting around while classes are in session. The IMACS Parent Relations Team is available to respond to emails and calls throughout the week. Additionally, students may jump into any make-up class—or watch a recording from their class—as needed. 

Access for parents. Parents are certainly not required to watch (and, by the way, are strongly discouraged from assisting their kids during a Live! class), but many parents find it fun and enlightening to see their kids in a virtual class setting. In addition, students and parents may effortlessly monitor progress throughout the school year via student and parent portals. These personalized portals are an easy way to ensure students get the most out of their IMACS education. Not only can parents see the work their child has completed (and what remains) but they can also schedule make-up classes, contact IMACS parent relations, view class schedules and calendars and much, much more.

As the U.S. has (mostly) returned to full-day, face-to-face schooling, we can see a clearer picture of online education. Thanks to technology, the after-school or weekend enrichment classroom doesn’t necessarily need to be a physical room. At IMACS we see every day that our students are thriving in a uniquely challenging and fun virtual environment.