Learning Without Walls
Virtual Schools and the Online Learning Revolution
A New Kind of School
Creating an online learning program requires tolerance for paradox. You must think outside the bricks-and-mortar classroom box, but you must not forget the traditional elements of education. You must relinquish some control but still maintain oversight. You must treat online learning like a business venture but make it jibe with public school budgeting. If you can balance these conflicting ideas, you could end up with a program that enhances your curriculum, draws home-schooled students back to your classrooms, decreases your dropout rates, and helps you retain teachers.
The Cyber Charter Challenge
Cyber charters, like their brick-and-mortar brethren, are a curious amalgam of home schools, for-profit companies, and public school districts that cater to parents seeking a choice. Where they differ from traditional charters is in their reach—across district boundaries, from one end of a state to another—and their approach. “It’s kind of the ultimate unschool—we don’t know what they’re doing,” said Stuart Knade, general counsel for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA). “They’re experimenting with kids’ lives on the public dollar.”
Whose Student Is It, Anyway?
Cyber charters, one of the fastest growing and yet grayest areas of online education, are pushed by various political interest groups as a way to improve public schools. Traditional charter schools are usually located within a district or nearby, and enrolled students attend a bricks-and-mortar facility. Cyber charters do not meet the same definition. By allowing students to attend classes from their homes, they are able to draw students from across a state or even from other states.
A Virtual Tour of Virtual Schools
They come in all shapes and sizes, serving students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Many of the virtual schools have public school ties, and all are seeing booms in enrollment. But, like the traditional bricks-and-mortar school, virtual schools have their unique qualities. Here is a look at eight virtual schools located across the United States.
Selected Online Resources
Want to know more about online education? Check these papers and reports.
Selected Online Providers
Look here for more information about some of the many online education vendors.