Virtual learning may seem like a relatively new concept in the world of education, but distance learning via correspondence schools and other sources has actually been around for centuries. Virtual schools offer students the ability to get at least a portion of their education online, from the comfort of home. Some students even enroll in virtual schools full time, graduating without ever setting foot in a brick-and-mortar classroom! We’ll take a look at how the virtual school has evolved, what the benefits might be, and some areas of the country that are now actively promoting their virtual schools for struggling and overachieving students alike.
What is Virtual School?
According to WhatIs.com, virtual learning involves the use of computers and the Internet to create a classroom environment right at home. The core components of a successful virtual learning experience include:
- Curriculum mapping that breaks curriculum down into assessable segments
- The ability to track student progress
- Sufficient online support for both students and faculty
- Access to electronic communication like email, online chat, and video conferencing
- Links via the Internet to outside resources that enhance the learning experience
When all of these components are included in the virtual learning environment, virtual schools can be just as effective, if not more so, than the traditional classroom for many students today. Virtual schools are available on both the public and private school levels, so parents can often search out the best online learning environment for their child’s unique needs and abilities.
The Benefits of Virtual School
There are a variety of potential benefits students receive from attending virtual school, including:
Although virtual schools may give the impression of being more impersonal than traditional models, students that attend these schools may actually enjoy more individual attention from instructors. Students usually have access to teachers through email, video conferencing, phone, and in-person, which is very helpful to students who struggle with their studies and need additional help.
Students that work, tour, or have other responsibilities can work their virtual school day around their other obligations. Students also have the ability to work at their own pace, which is a particular boon to students who are struggling or those who work at a faster pace than the rest of the class.
Work from any Location
As long as a computer can be set up with Internet access, students can complete their studies from nearly any location. This can be a big advantage for students that live far from a school or travel frequently. It is also a helpful feature for disabled students who can’t get to a brick-and-mortar school easily.
Students in virtual schools who are struggling can work at their own pace until they finally see positive results. This prevents many students from getting frustrated with their studies or dropping out of school altogether. Students who are advanced academically may be able to graduate from virtual school early so they can pursue their work or postsecondary education dreams quicker.
This video offers a look at the North Carolina Virtual Public School program.
Tulsa Virtual School Plans to Double Enrollment
Tulsa offers a thriving virtual school option to students in the area and expects to continue to grow its online student population throughout the next school year. According to a report at KTUL, the virtual school in Tulsa offers no website or information about the program that is going into its second year. However, even without advertising, this school is planning to double enrollment this fall, with 170 students enrolled in the school so far.
Geoffrey Wilbur, the overseer of the Tulsa Learning Academy, told KTUL, “I don’t think there is any way of getting around it because what will work with one student may be fine, but there are five or six students out of a hundred that may need a different setting.” Students may prefer the online school because of their personality characteristics, physical disabilities or academic challenges.
Nashville Virtual School Finishes the First Year of Online Learning
The Virtual Learning Program at Metro Nashville Public Schools just finished its first year with seven students graduating from the online program, 13 full-time students, and around 300 part-time students. According to the Tennessean, the school is gearing up for the second year of online operation with nearly 30 full-time students and 1,000 part-time students. To qualify for the virtual program, students must be residents of Davidson County and currently carry a grade point average between 2.5 and 4.0.
The Nashville Virtual Learning Program employs highly qualified, certified teachers, and the instruction is in line with the state’s academic standards. Students can complete the program entirely online or combine virtual learning with the traditional classroom experience. Individual instruction is available for virtual students who are having difficulty keeping up with their studies.
This video offers a look at the Metro Nashville Public Schools Virtual School.
New York Opening the Door to Virtual Learning
The state of New York may begin to see more opportunities in virtual learning, now that certain academic restrictions have been lifted. According to a report in the New York Post, the Board of Regents has approved new rules that reduce “seat time” requirements for New York students, as well as requirements for face-to-face interactions between teachers and students. Officials from the City Department of Education said the new rules will open the door to more online and blended learning environments.
Virtual learning may not be a new concept, but it is a growing one. As more parents and students tune into the many advantages online schools can offer, there may be a greater presence for this style of learning in the future.
Questions? Contact us on Facebook @publicschoolreview.