Sometimes the only way to make progress is to leave something behind.
Barriers are falling that once separated virtual learning from the traditional K–12 approach centered on face-to-face classroom interaction. Thirty percent of high school students and 19 percent of middle schoolers took at least one online class in 2010, according to a 2011 report sponsored by the national nonprofit group Project Tomorrow. Scheduling flexibility, control over their own learning and the ability to work at their own pace were the top benefits cited by students who had taken virtual courses.
It’s not just that students are beginning to mix virtual courses into their class schedules. The trend toward using digital content and online elements to enhance traditional classes is also strengthening. An increasing number of schools are offering blended courses, combining elements of virtual and live classroom learning. In some blended classes, like those at the VOISE (Virtual Opportunities Inside a School Environment) Academy, a Chicago public high school, students work almost entirely online even when they are in school, with the teacher available in the classroom for guidance and one-to-one mentoring. The aim is to combine the best aspects of each approach: face-to-face contact with the teacher and other students enhanced by the flexibility and independence provided by the virtual portion of the class.
School districts are also incorporating virtual learning into their continuity of operations (COOP) planning. Schools in the snowbelt region of the country have found that virtual-learning technologies can reach students even when no one can make it to school.
Virtual learning gives students more control over their own education. Scheduling flexibility lets them move at their own pace and learn when it’s convenient for them. When a part of the curriculum sparks special interest in a student, he or she can explore it in more depth online. Customized, learner-centric education works best for every student, but it is particularly important for those with disabilities and special learning needs.
For more information, read CDW•G’s Virtual Learning in K–12 Education white paper.