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Viewpoint: Time to reimagine virtual learning

By Houston C. Tucker
October 27th, 2014

A virtual learning program should focus on inspiring teachers if it expects teachers to inspire students

reimagine-virtual-learningJust over a decade ago, the idea of virtual learning carried with it the potential to revolutionize the education industry. It was a beautiful concept. It offered the ability to serve students in a one-to-one setting, to build intimate relationships with them, and to assist each one in pursuing his or her personal best.

But today, virtual learning faces new skepticism in the wake of subpar results from many programs.

What happened? In short, the implementation of virtual learning was substandard to the original vision. Many factors, both external and internal, were at play to cause this, and I have written about these in my own blog. However, my purpose with this article is not to point out all of the faults that have arisen, but rather to sound the call for reimagining virtual learning programs to make sure they are implemented correctly.

Here are three key steps to this process.

1. Know who you want to serve.

Let’s lay aside the myth that virtual learning programs can be all things to all students and understand this type of learning is for a certain type of student. The student’s background (bullied, gifted, homeschooled) matters less than his or her level of commitment to the learning journey—as well as the support of his or her family.

A successful virtual learning program will focus on attracting students who have the resilience, discipline, perseverance, and desire to put in the work required on a daily basis.

2. Launch with success in mind.

Imagine a new Starbucks announces it will open in your downtown next week. The store prepares to serve thousands of customers the first day by hiring the staff two days prior to opening and rushing them through surface-level training that teaches how to make only 35 percent of the drink selections. Starbucks expects satisfied customers on day one, although the company might not even have a store manager yet, nor will the store be fully staffed. It is a recipe for disaster.

(Next page: More ways to reimagine virtual learning)