Virtual Schools

Virtual schools offer alternate choices to brick & mortar academic organizations.

Parents seeking an alternative to public education have often selected homeschooling. Within the past decade, their options have expanded to include online courses. According to a recent article in The Washington Post, Virginia-based K12, Inc. is “leading a national movement to replace classrooms with computers.” Even offering online classes to a small group of junior and senior students, first-come, first serve. Online classes are only offered during the school day and are not part of a home-school program.  

While the company originally intended to provide a resource network for home-schooled students, it now provides flexible schooling for those who may not fit into the mainstream education system: “high achievers, strugglers, dropouts, teenage parents and victims of bullying among them.”

At least 250,000 students in thirty states currently engage in some form of virtual education. K12 represents a large portion of that number.  “K12 would rank among the 30 largest of the nation’s 1,500 districts. The company, which began in two states a decade ago, now teaches about 95,000 students in virtual schools in 29 states and the District of Columbia.” (Connecticut is NOT among them.) Business is booming, as the company reported a 36 percent increase in revenue over that of last year.

According to the K12 website, parents and students can choose from a wide variety of free courses or programs online. “Students take courses online with support from their teacher via phone, online Web meetings, and sometimes even face to face. The parent (or "Learning Coach") keeps the student on track in line with the provided lessons plans. While courses are delivered online, the schools provide plenty of opportunities to connect online and offline with a vibrant school community.”   Parental involvement decreases as students progress, but they should expect that their children will spend five to six hours per day on academic work. 

However, most American parents and educators still question the value of virtual education.  They are uncomfortable with the prospect of isolating children in front of a computer for a large portion of a day.  They prefer a “brick and mortar” academic environment in which students interact with teachers and peers. They claim that socialization is a large part of learning. The debate will certainly continue as more opportunities for school choice emerge.

What do you think about virtual learning?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Frank Acquarulo November 28, 2011 at 12:40 PM
I would say that a combination of virtual learning and classroom time would be a happy medium. I don't believe 100 percent virtual learning gives the student an opportunity to interact and discuss the material and thoughts in a real time environment.
Edward Fast Lazarus December 01, 2011 at 01:56 AM
On line learning is quickly becoming a very large business. The largest University in the US, the University of Phoenix, did not exist 13 years ago. On line learning can be very effective for the right student and the right courses. The social aspect of schools is important as a learning tool for young people and through college (traditional aged students). I have taught a "hybrid" course on a collegiate level which included both an on line and in classroom experience. I found that to be very effective for this age group (first year freshmen). I would caution that e-courses of must be monitored carefully for quality and content. On line learning can be great---but not necessarily for everyone. Technology can move far quicker sometimes than quality control. Edward F. Lazarus Branford Chamber 203-488-5500 ed@branfordct.com


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