Trends and Issues of Virtual K–12 Schools

Trends and Issues of Virtual K–12 Schools

Belinda Davis Lazarus (University of Michigan-Dearborn, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 5
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch316
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Abstract

Increasingly, K-12 schools are delivering instruction via Internet courses that allow students to access course content and complete assignments from home. Although a decade ago, online courses for public school students were not available, a growing number of countries have discovered that online instruction offers schools the opportunity to provide a wider variety of courses and experiences for students with a variety of skills and abilities. In fact, the Governor of Michigan just signed legislation that will require all high school students to take at least one online course prior to graduation (Carnevale, 2006; Moser, 2006). Educators have learned to adapt courses for online instruction and several universities are partnering with public schools to share expertise in the virtual education arena.
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Introduction And Background

Increasingly, K-12 schools are delivering instruction via Internet courses that allow students to access course content and complete assignments from home. Although a decade ago, online courses for public school students were not available, a growing number of countries have discovered that online instruction offers schools the opportunity to provide a wider variety of courses and experiences for students with a variety of skills and abilities. In fact, the Governor of Michigan just signed legislation that will require all high school students to take at least one online course prior to graduation (Carnevale, 2006; Moser, 2006). Educators have learned to adapt courses for online instruction and several universities are partnering with public schools to share expertise in the virtual education arena.

In the United States and worldwide, funding and approvals have increased for virtual schools. According to the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, as of July 1, 2005, nearly every state offers online learning programs (Watson, 2005) with funding from state appropriations, course fees, and/or the use of some type of full-time equivalent (FTE) funding formula. For example, in 2004-2005, the University of California College Prep Online schools received $3.4 million in state appropriations with 2,106 course registrations. In 2004-2005, the Florida Virtual School (FLVS), one of the oldest online schools in the United States, enrolled 21,425 students in grades 6-12 for a total of 33,767 enrollments. Currently, the FLVS receives FTE public education funding, however, prior to 2004, the school received $20 million in state appropriations. In 2005, state funding for the Michigan Virtual High School, a privately operated school, was increased from $1.5 to $1,750,000. And, the Virtual High School International, a non-profit collaborative of 200 national and international schools lists a budget of $10 million and offers 160 course to students in 16 countries. In spite of declining budgets, the funding and growth of K-12 virtual schools continues at a rapid pace (Park and Staresina, 2004).

Although the United States dominates the market in virtual K-12 schools, Canada has also developed several online schools that are approved by the Canadian Ministry of Education. The Open School based in British Columbia offers courses and content to K-12 students in 14 subject areas ranging from agriculture to mathematics. The Toronto District School Board launched its virtual high school in 2004 with 20 course offerings. The Kitchener-Waterloo Private School based in Ontario is a parochial school that offers teacher-designed, interactive high school courses online in dozens of content areas. And, a unique virtual school, the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Internet High School provides online courses to enable First Nation students in remote and isolated parts of the Ontario’s far north to obtain a high school diploma (Walmark, 2005). Several other provinces in Canada such as Quebec and Alberta are planning to launch online schools in the near future.

Virtual K-12 schools are not the norm but the trend is expected to grow, worldwide (eSchools, 2006: Mayadas, 2005; Park and Staresina, 2004). The convenience and accessibility of online courses offer many benefits to students, parents, and school districts. Several challenges face districts and educators, however, online courses may be designed to provide a wealth of educational opportunities for youngsters and maximize opportunities for districts to offer a more extensive curriculum.

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Main Focus: Benefits Of Online Courses

Internet courses offer many advantages to parents, students, and educators. Advocates contend that online courses offer variety, flexibility, and convenience that the traditional classroom cannot match. Many believe that online courses have the potential to equalize educational opportunities for all students. For example, Tom Layton, a teacher in Eugene, Oregon’s virtual school maintains that:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Correspondence Course: Courses in which instruction and assessment are conducted through the postal mail.

Home Schooling: Instruction that is delivered in the student’s home by visiting teachers or parents.

Synchronous Learning: Online courses and activities that require students and teachers to be online at the same time.

Online Courses: Courses that are offering entirely through the Internet.

Instant Messages: Online systems that allow two users to type messages to each other in a synchronous environment.

Virtual Schools: Schools that offer entire degrees via Internet instruction.

Online Conferencing: Online discussions that allow students and teachers to post, read, and reply to each other’s messages.

Asynchronous Learning: Online courses that allow students to participate at anytime from any location with Internet access.

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