Modern technology connects us and allows communities to share resources in unprecedented ways. Virtual education leverages these connections to provide everyone, regardless of geographic location, access to experts and high quality learning experiences. As technology has improved, virtual education has evolved to become a tool that helps close gaps in high schools and colleges.

Quality online learning programs provide rigorous curriculum, meaningful teaching resources, and access to specialized programs, such as industry training for students, schools and teachers.

Better Career and Technical Education

I believe access to specialized programs will be transformative. Virtual learning will play a major role in the career and technical education space by increasing access to qualified instructors and by improving the knowledge base of all educators. Exposure to hands-on, lab-based learning experiences will improve students’ ability to think critically.

Better Focus on CBE and CBL

As competency-based and personalized learning approaches continue to evolve, I hope to see a greater focus on a holistic approach to learning that relies less on “when” or “where” students learn and more on “what” and “how” they do. Both online and face-to-face teachers will be empowered to use technology tools to understand each student’s specific challenge areas and embrace technology to help students fill content knowledge gaps in an efficient and engaging manner.

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Better Communication and Collaboration among Students

Rather than students being isolated with virtual learning, I see virtual classroom communities allowing more and more students to learn with and from each other. Students demonstrate their learning in more authentic, applicable ways. Increasingly, educators use technology to support the development of communication and collaboration skills – skills that are in high demand for today’s ever-growing global workforce. I also foresee great opportunities for different types of virtual learning that offer collaboration and exploration experiences. These experiences will connect students in more meaningful ways to one another and to mentors who can spark interest and foster relationships to support student interest, confidence, and engagement in careers.

Better Digital Literacy

Virtual and blended classrooms provide access to a wide variety of online resources. We must lead the way in educating young learners about digital literacy and healthy digital use. With unprecedented access to a large variety of virtual resources, it is essential that we teach our children to curate, not just gather, online resources.

Better Language Learning

As our society becomes increasingly diverse, virtual education can help educators address the language learning challenges among our student population. Teachers will use virtual education to access the training and support needed to improve the quality of educational experiences for students who are learning a new language as they are integrating into our communities. Text-to-speech and other technologies, paired with virtual courses and strong on-site support, can level the playing field for students with limited language proficiency, learning disabilities, or interrupted education. The ability to learn in different modalities better paired with individual learning styles, helps students better retain and comprehend material.

Better Everything

In the future, I see schools and teachers:

  • Providing both blended and online learning opportunities to expand student access to educational resources
  • Using data analytics to help students and teachers better understand learning gaps. As more improvements are made in built-in assessments, teachers will be able to easily monitor a student’s progress in their learning path, and students will be able to master subjects at their own pace but within a learning community.
  • Allowing students to experience learning in immersive new ways via virtual reality, which will provide them with exciting, engaging access to virtual field trips.
  • Enhancing the virtual teacher-student relationship using technology such as webcam video and audio to create stronger interpersonal connections.
  • Integrating data from hands-on work with learning management systems so that students can experience and do while teachers assess.

As virtual education continues to evolve, there will be no “one size fits all” approach to educating students. Learning will be customized, personal, authentic, and engaging.

I joined the virtual education industry because of the impact the combining of technology and education can have on children’s lives. The ability to collaborate virtually, learn material in new ways using the best that technology has to offer, and have access to expert educators and tools regardless of geographic location makes me feel optimistic about the possibilities, the future of virtual education, and education in general.

About the Author:

Carol A. Ribeiro is President & CEO of The Virtual High School (VHS, Inc.)