Virtual Virginia, an online school that launches its full-time pilot program this fall for 100 high school students, is raising concerns among educators and a lawmaker on the fence about the school’s effectiveness.
Virtual Virginia is a full-time, pilot online high school that will provide to 100 students on a first-come-first-served basis the chance to earn their diplomas without having to attend any physical classes. The lack of face-to-face interaction with other students and instructors is a problem, say some educators.
“Within a traditional classroom one of the things the teacher does is create class classroom functionality,” Bob Morgan of the Sylvan Learning Center says.
Morgan is arguing that while digital technology is welcome and integrated in the classroom, the mere presence of an instructor helps keep distractions to a minimum, something that doesn’t apply to virtual classrooms. He explains, according to WSET.com:
“They may be at home, so their phone just isn’t off or in vibrate it is out of the room. Are there pets? Are there other children in the household?”
Virtual Virginia is not the first online high school, at least not in the private sector. Liberty University has been offering high school education for grade K through 12 since 2007. For 2015, a total of 3,500 students from all over the US and 26 more countries are enrolled in its virtual classes, WSET.com’s Katie Brooke reports.
Despite many students benefiting from a digitally-based education, others argue it can severely deprive students of valuable social interactions. More yet are concerned that the Virtual Virginia courses and resources are only available to public school registered students, making the high school program inaccessible to home-schooled learners, as students interested in Virtual Virginia must enroll in the online program through their local schools.
Virtual Virginia is a web-based, secure environment that will enable students to participate in discussion forums, readings and complete projects and assignments just like their brick and mortar classmates to earn their Standard or Advanced Studies diploma.
Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) is a vocal proponent of online learning, and says that the Virtual Virginia venture shouldn’t pose a limit as to how many students can enroll come fall. Bell said:
“This is a tight grip on who and how many. . . .This is not the same thing we’ve been working for five years. I’m disappointed in the cap and, secondly, the control by school divisions and guidance.”
The Virtual Virginia learning model is based on an individualized learning environment while ensuring every student keeps up with the pace of the rest of her cohort. Classes are taught by qualified teachers with previous classroom experience.
Virtual Virginia was established in 2002 and has so far served over 40,000 students through its digital learning offerings.