How to start a successful virtual learning program

“Our superintendent met with all 51 principals and asked for feedback about successes and challenges. We were able to understand what they really needed, and they knew they had a voice in this process,” said Traci Dami, director of staff development for Collier County Public Schools in Florida.

How are we going to pay for it?

Funding nearly always presents a problem for school districts, especially in a still-shaky economy.

The report notes that educators can campaign for new funding specifically set aside for virtual learning, redirect existing funds, create new revenue streams—or try a combination of all three.

The three largest sources of new funding for virtual learning programs are grants, state funding, and philanthropic organizations, although these resources also are feeling the pinch of a tough economy in recent years.

“Today, reallocating existing funds tends to be the more common way to cover the expenses associated with virtual learning initiatives,” according to the report. “For example, funds previously allocated to face-to-face professional development, textbooks, and travel expenses are being earmarked for virtual learning.”

Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina financed its virtual learning program, which includes a one-to-one laptop initiative for grades 4-12, with grants and by redirecting funds.

The district won a $250,000 Lowe’s Home Improvement Store grant, in addition to $50,000 from the county and $100,000 from the state.

“Our superintendent did such a great job of educating the community on the benefits of this program. … These funds also helped build our virtual learning infrastructure. We put our textbook budget towards this initiative, too. When we build our new schools, we no longer pay for wired classrooms—everything is wireless,” said Scott Smith, the district’s chief technology officer. “We have done all of this and are still No. 99 out of 115 North Carolina school districts in terms of dollars spent per pupil, where No. 1 spends the most and No. 115 the least.”

How do we get teachers on board?

Three strategies seem to be the most effective when it comes to teacher buy-in, the authors note.

Laura Ascione

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