According to online education source Keeping Pace, 30 states currently have multi-district, fully online schools (those operating as a main education source for students without having a physical school location) that are serving close to 310,000 students. This is estimated to be a 13 percent increase over the year prior. These progressive schools are not private schools; rather, they are public and therefore held accountable to the same academic and accountability standards as their peers.
There are numerous reasons people choose public virtual schools over the typical brick-and-mortar option, including credit recovery, increased class offerings or the opportunity to work at one’s own pace. This e-newsletter will examine this emerging trend and will detail why some are opting to go virtual.
Benefits of virtual schools
- Pace: Virtual schools allow students to work on what they want, when they want and at their own pace. Students can choose what subject they want to tackle at the time of day that works best for them. This is especially helpful for older students, who may have difficulty dragging themselves to school first thing in the morning; or for those who wish to tackle their most difficult subject of the day first. A Weekly Assignment Notebook can help virtual students plan out a day that works best for them.
- Cost: There are cost benefits to virtual schools, especially in rural areas. These districts tend to have fewer students, which can equate to decreased access to specialty classes. Virtual schools make it possible for students to take a wider variety of classes without the need for additional staff. Also, with virtual schools, the cost associated with operating a facility is minimized or eliminated.
- Credit recovery: When students fall behind in traditional schools, it can be tough to catch up while trying to keep on track with required coursework. Virtual schools allow students who have fallen behind to make up what they’ve missed, either during the normal school year or during summer break. On the flip side, students can work ahead in an effort to graduate early.
- Bullying: Unfortunately, bullying is still a serious issue. Students suffering the effects of bullying may have difficulty learning in a traditional environment. Virtual schools can act as a temporary resolution while parents and students search for an alternative, or they can become a permanent solution in an effort to escape bullying.
If your school is a virtual one, or if you intend to extend online offerings, make sure to promote your offerings. Post details in brick-and-mortar locations on bulletin boards and on banners. Include a blurb in your e-newsletters and post online. Mail inquirers a “getting started packet” that includes course offerings, helpful virtual learning research, a list of the benefits and information on how to enroll. And add promotional tools, such as a stylus pen, a microfiber screen cleaner and a set of ear buds, as impetus and added impact.
Virtual schools are growing in numbers and can provide many benefits: students can work at their own pace and districts may experience cost-savings. While non-traditional, virtual schools may be worth consideration and further discovery to see if they are a solid fit for your district.