Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why We Left Liberty Online Academy

Though you wouldn't know it from the dead silence on the blog, we've started a new adventure this fall-- schooling our girls at home. My husband and I made the decision this summer to enroll them in Liberty University Online Academy, an online private Christian school.

We chose this school for several reasons:
  • Full-service support: In the LUOA model, the school is responsible for lesson plans, grading, transcripts, record keeping, standardized testing, and accountability. Each child has their own teacher as well as an academic advisor. That kind of professional oversight and support was important to us.
  • A true online-model:  The learning experience designed by LUOA was intended to be a true online model. They use an online interface-- CANVAS-- and use multiple methods of interacting with the material, including external websites and learning games. This was important to us because other "online" academies-- such as ABEKA-- are little more than streaming video of a teacher talking for six hours a day. We wanted a format that made good use of the many possibilities of an online model. LUOA seemed to present that.
  •  Accreditation and statistical success: LUOA is accredited by several reputable accrediting bodies, including AdvanceEd and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School improvement. They have scored better than the national average on their standardized tests, and their graduates have been accepted by a number of state, private, and Christian universities. 
  • An affordable alternative to private Christian school: My husband and I have had a great experience with the private Christian school our daughter had previously attended.  However, a brick and mortar Christian school becomes more cost prohibitive as the number of children enrolled increases. As we have three daughters, we have decided to experiment with online school to see if it provides a cost-friendly alternative. We felt LUOA's tuition-- while more expensive than some online options-- was a reasonable middle ground.
  • Flexibility: We liked the idea of being able to send our girls to a Christian school that was not tied to particular geographical location. An online Christian school offers the girls educational consistency no matter where we may live over the course of their education.
So far, so good.

My biggest concern, as we enrolled the girls, was that I had not been able to see the curriculum. We were not allowed to see any significant amount of the material prior to their first day of class. We chose to enroll them despite those concerns due to the statistical success of the program and due to Liberty University's reputation as a quality online college. We had no reason to think that their Academy would be of inferior quality.

Unfortunately, the curriculum was a disappointment, most specifically in the case of my third grader.
  • The formatting was unprofessional. The material was prone to typos and other easily-fixed errors. 
  • The material for each subject was poorly written, vague, and even inaccurate at times. 
  • The test material was also frequently vague and error-prone, sometimes asking my daughter for information that was nowhere in the lesson material. 
  • The lessons-- especially in math-- lacked a solid structure. During our first two weeks of school, my daughter did surprisingly few math problems and there was no systematic review of second-grade concepts. This is problematic in a subject like math, where retention and review are important.
  •  The lessons-- again, particularly in math--  relied heavily on free materials, such as YouTube videos or website games,  for the main teaching component. Some of those materials were very poor quality. 
    • This was particularly disappointing, as we did not expect a tuition-based curriculum to use free materials for a significant portion  of the lesson. I would consider it appropriate to use free materials as supplementary or enrichment items. If LUOA was intended to be an open-source school, then I would also have no problem if they used free resources as core material. But it is different when parents are paying tuition.
Both my daughter and I felt that we were fighting the material rather than learning from it. Most of the time I would teach her, in my own words, the concept that the lesson was trying to teach. After two weeks of this frustration, I decided to do some research.

What our research revealed is that LUOA had discard their previous curriculum and created their own. Until late spring/early summer, they had used Alpha Omega's online curriculum. This fall was the launch of their new curriculum. That meant that all of the data-- the standardized test scores and college entry results-- were based on a totally different curriculum than the one we had been given. It also meant that LUOA's accreditation was based on a different curriculum. 

We chose to withdraw our daughters and enroll them in Alpha Omega's online academy. This is a statistically proven, accredited curriculum. Alpha Omega's online school offers many of the same benefits as Liberty Academy. My third grader will use an exclusively online curriculum and my K5 daughter will use a print-based curriculum that is still under the umbrella of the Academy. This includes teacher-led classes, parent accountability and support, grading, and record keeping.

As parents, we know there is no perfect school-- be it brick and mortar or digits and databytes. There isn't a one-size-fits-everyone education. However, we have chosen to share our experience with Liberty so that parents who are considering this option may be fully informed. The time and money parents invest into their child's education is valuable.

Note: This review speaks only to Liberty University Online Academy. I have no experience with Liberty University itself or Liberty University Online. I have several friends who have gone through the university-- both on campus and online-- with a very good experience. Quality concerns with the Academy do not indicate that the University's programs are inferior.


Dryshot said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! We have had the same experience with LUOA and thought we were the only ones. We are also first-time homeschoolers, previous A Beka private schoolers and unaware of the new curriculum role out. I had to read this twice to make sure my wife didn't write it!!
I hope you are having better success with AOA. We have started the transition process as well.

Thanks again!

Karen said...

I wish you the best in your transition. It is good to know that our family's experience can help another homeschooling family. :)

matthew christy said...

I found your blog post while doing research on homeschooling. We will be first time homeschoolers with four kids in grades K through 6. We too were considering Liberty as a "middle of the road" option. We have had our kids in private Christian school and are a little nervous jumping in to homeschool 4 young kids. We were interested if you had an update on your experience with AOA academy? How did it compare with your experience with Liberty and would you recommend it?

Bryan Rapp said...

I am also interested in your experience with AOA. Please give us an update.

Brandy Schneider said...

Ok..I stumbled upon this! There is now a facebook group for parents but I am not sure if I should actually ask the question...WHY? Why are there so many errors?
This is our first year homeschooling and using LUOA as our curriculum. My third grader is lucky that I am sitting with him. I am finding so many errors, and acutally I have let the school know that they need someone to proof read. Also, I have found that the teachers (probably younger than I) also reply with incorrect answers. I used to be a teacher I am not perfect, but if you re not watching your child like a hawk they may be given false info. It has had too many errors for the cost. Did you like another online accredited program better?

Chavonne Taylor said...

Glad I read your comments. I am in my first year of homeschooling with my 1st and 3rd grader and feel I need to move to an online school for next school year for my rising 4th grader. I have been looking at Liberty academy and through searching reviews came across your post. I will also look into Alpha Omega.

2tiredtoplay said...

Thanks for sharing...saved our family too

2tiredtoplay said...

Thanks for sharing...saved our family too

Troykati Naatus said...

THANK YOU for this!! OUr daughter completed only her senior year through Liberty, and she did okay. I am homeschooling our younger three for the first time this year using Alpha Omega Monarch. We have a 9th grader and I was thinking about enrolling him at Liberty for 11th and 12th grade. It sounds like Alpha Omega Academy will be a MUCH better choice for us!

Michael Lemley said...

I was a student in Liberty Online Academy for my senior year of high school. I should preface this review by stating that I attended a private Christian school for grades 4-11. My parents had decided to put me in this program because they disagreed with something in the authority of the school. Anyways, onto my review. I will start with the pros of the program. It gave me lots of flexibility in terms of my schoolwork so that I could get ahead if necessary and even if I got behind there was still time to catchup on work. Most weeks I was able to get all 5 of my classes done for the week within 2 hours. That is one thing about this course work. For all the classes I took except for English the classes were extremely easy and just relied on reading a .pdf and then answering some multiple choice questions about it. I was not challenged at all. To further this point many classes and quizzes in the curriculum were filled with spelling errors and questions that weren't even from the source material. Much of one Family and Consumer class that I took was complete busywork and didn't heighten my learning at all. To compound this problem if I had a question on an assignment I could send a teacher a message but the teacher would only be online for a few hours and many times it would take until the next day to rectify the problem. This Is a problem since if you can't complete one assignment you can't move into the other assignments until you finish that one. Many large assignments snuck up on me because there was no warning that a 3 page paper would be due the next day. To add to this you are entirely alone when doing this school there are no other online classmates with you that you can talk to or collaborate with. Unlike liberty's online college classes there are no discussion boards or no interaction with other people. It can get quite lonely at times if you don't know to get out and be with other people. Just mindless multiple choice questions. In conclusion while I did enjoy the flexibility of this program and the free time that it gave me I would have a hard time recommending this curriculum or program to anyone for the reasons I've mentioned above.

Pastor Dr. Lina Thurmond-Peebles said...

My son attended Liberty from his 5th grade to his 11th grade. For the first years it was a very good school and we thoroughly enjoyed it but as he got into the high school years their program changed and it was horrible!!!! The teachers are rude and they do not respond within a timely manner. I wouldn't advise any parent to send their child/children to Liberty. Please take my advice because if I had to do it over again I would have gotten my son out long ago! Run for the hills!!!

Brandy Schneider said...

Has anyone tried this program http://www.enlightiumacademy.com/tuition? Do you all have recommendations?
We are trying to decide whether we want to change programs.


Dan and Diione Murch said...

My daughter did Enlightium for 9th grade. She came from a public school and is academically strong. We chose to home school her because the teaching of the PS was influencing her walk with the Lord. At first she was resistant, but she ended the school year on a high note. The teachers were helpful and she directed her education for the most part. It is not as academically rigorous as the public school, but our focus not academics, but her obedience to the Lord. I would recommend Enlightium.

Sue Mohre said...

I would like to add another big con to Liberty. They are not recognized by the NCAA as a legitimate curriculum. My son has been determined to be academically ineligible to be on a NCAA Division II sports team because he did Liberty for his last two years of high school. I am so frustrated. The curriculum is junk. Don't use it!

Tleurs said...

Thank you for your insight. I have an advanced 2nd grader and she has always been homeschooled. I was reading a lot of bias reviews and was really hunting for a first hand experience. I appreciate that you took the time to inform others before the huge financial commitment. Can you please share some of your experience with the online school you chose?

Thank you

Rachael McKenzie said...

My parents and I are looking into me joining this but I've been reading reviews and was wondering if it's still bad? Can someone please tell me asap because I don't want my parents to pay for something that isn't useful.

Sue Mohre said...

We were very disappointed in the curriculum and would never recommend it to anyone.

Unknown said...

Hi im looking into alpha omega academy...what say you all

Susan Brandon said...

Sue, as a mom of children still in public schools (for now) I'm curious about the NCAA and how they ruled on the academic ineligibility. Did the NCAA state that they do not accept LUOA's accreditation??
I'm asking because I have a son who is a gifted athlete and he struggles in a normal classroom setting, therefore we were leaning towards Liberty.

Candi Sharpe said...

We are looking into Enlightium for our 5th grader for her 6th grade year. Are you all still happy with Enlightium?

Unknown said...

Susan - If you go to their website, you can see that it has not been that they have been ruled against. They are in the process this year of requesting recognition by the NCAA, so that students can be eligible. So it is my understanding that they are working very hard on this.

From their website:
LUOA NCAA Clearinghouse Status

Liberty University Online Academy is currently not an approved institution with the NCAA Clearinghouse. Therefore, if your student wishes to compete in an NCAA sport in college please be aware of this situation. LUOA will be submitting an application for approval this coming year. Please check back to this page for up to date information as we progress through the NCAA application process.

Brandy Schneider said...

I believe I saw that they were approved again. What about Enlightium Academy? I am confused. Time Tebow didn't graduate and attended NCAA and there is also a Baylor woman this year on the basketball team that was homeschooled in Texas. Why would you not be able to participate in a D2 school? Thanks

Sue Mohre said...

Brandy. I was told by the NCAA that LUOA is not on their list of approved curriculum and my son was denied participation by the NCAA. Sports participation aside, the fact still remains that their curriculum is subpar and was a huge disappointment. DO YOUR HOMEWORK PLEASE. It is not what is seems. I still stand by my statement that I will never recommend it to anyone.

Brandy Schneider said...

I agree we used it and were unhappy. Im just confused about NCAA. Do they approve homeschool? Are you saying they have to go to a public school or private to participate at college level?

HSMom2One said...

Nothing has changed. I only wish that I had found this review before enrolling my son in LUOA.

We decided to use LUOA this year for Pre-Algebra. After a few days my son decided he liked the independence and asked if we could add more classes. We added Academic Success, Physical Science, Civics, Basic Spanish I (followed by Basic Spanish II), and at a later date English 8.

It didn’t take long for me to regret our decision to enroll my son in LUOA. This year has been an exercise in frustration. Teachers are hard to contact, assignments take days to be graded (even though they have a 48 hour grading policy). The lessons are full of errors. (According to one of my son’s lessons, “We all know that the articles are “a, and, & the.” I could go on and on about the errors but that’s not necessary. In speaking to LUOA about the errors, I was told they are “working on it.”

Academically, I think LUOA is severely lacking. There were days when my son completed all his assignments in less than an hour and other days when Physical Science alone took him two hours. Physical Science, in my opinion, is filled with “busy work.” As far as the Pre-Algebra class, there are many assignments with only three questions, which means if a student gets one problem incorrect they receive a grade of 66%. Quizzes and exams are a little better with five questions. But again, one incorrect problem and you get an 80%.

English 8 was dropped in less than 30 days. The errors and poor teacher were too much to overcome. A change of Physical Science teachers was necessary mid-year due to incompetency on the part of the teacher. He took weeks to grade assignments, deducted points for misspelled words, though the assignments were filled with misspellings and grammatical errors. (He teaches full-time in the public school system. No wonder it took weeks for assignments to be graded.) The Basic Spanish I and II teacher was the best thing about LUOA. She encouraged my son on a daily basis and was timely in her correction of assignments. The Academic Success class was, in my opinion, a waste of time and money. The entire class seemed to be based on a Weekly Reading Log. The Civics class was worthwhile, although there wasn’t much interaction with or encouragement from the teacher.

We started the school year excited about LUOA and the idea that my son would attend LUOA for the high school years, we are ending the year counting the assignments left so we can be done with the torture. My son is a good student and is getting As in all his classes but it has not been a fun journey. Our search for an online high school continues and I give LUOA a failing grade.

LU MOM said...

I'm a parent of a LUOA student. My older daughter graduated from LUOA. (As well of Liberty University) This will be our 8th year with Liberty. I'm a bit surprised to hear such critical comments about Liberty. Certainly, it's all a matter of one's perspective and each individual child, however, in reading the comments I felt I needed to express my sincere appreciation to the staff of LUOA.

I have always received prompt responses from the teachers and staff at LUOA. Additionally, they are Christ centered and helpful. All of the teachers and staff have been more than caring and supportive of my daughters.

As for the curriculum, there was a change made a few years back and with it came some growing pains. Truly, at times while it was frustrating, the staff worked diligently to rectify any issues and were more than willing to assist whenever we called or messaged in.

As Christians were are called to work together. Liberty made a change in their curriculum in an effort to improve their standards and challenge their students. With that said, I view the Liberty Staff as an extension of our family. Therefore, we work together to ensure my daughters received first and foremost a solid Christian based education, followed by a challenging curriculum.

I would recommend Liberty to any parent looking for a Christ center curriculum as well as a supportive staff willing to help your student succeed.

In closing, I want to reiterate that I personally have never had a difficult time getting in contact with a teacher, nor have I ever experienced rude or uncaring teachers. After seven years and two daughters, I feel our tenure speaks volumes.

Sandy Chastain said...

LU Mom - if you read this - I am thankful for the good response you gave. We are considering this for my daughter. She has a learning disability and I have some concerns. Are there still many errors in the curriculum? Are the classes mainly just busy work? Do quizzes and tests only have 5 or so questions? Is it based off free internet stuff?

Sue Mohre said...

I still would not recommend this curriculum for anyone. It does use free items off the Internet and often seemed very disjointed and random in the approach taken to some subjects. Trying to reach teachers and get feedback in a timely manner was commonly a problem in some subjects. The high school senior Bible curriculum daily gave multiple choice answers that included stating Jesus had posted or found something something on Facebook. It often felt like the course was making a joke out of what was supposed to be a legitimate high school course, as well as seemingly almost mocking Jesus. I found it very offensive and was told it was just the content of the course, and it was meant for students who had a shallow knowledge of the Bible. That was not what I expected to find in a high school Bible class from a Christian based curriculum. Please do your homework. I think there are much better choices.

HSMom2One said...

I agree with Sue Mohre. There are better options out there. Our school year (2016-2017) was filled with frustration. Teachers not responding or grading assignments in a timely fashion. Although LUOA has a 48-hour turn around policy, it consistently took longer than that to receive assignments back. There are many errors in the curriculum, classes such as science, Basic Spanish, and Academic Success were filled with busy work, the Algebra class had only 5 questions on quizzes and assignments, and many subjects had free stuff from the internet. Our experience was very real and very current.

"The crumbs beneath the seat" said...

What did you decide to use?

Unknown said...

Anyone have good or bad experiences with Enlightium or monarch? I am looking at both of those for my 10th grader. Any other options would be great also!