More states look to online learning for students

In 2010, more than 4 million K-12 students participated in formal virtual learning programs.

As more students opt to enroll full-time or part-time in virtual learning programs, a growing number of states are considering proposals mandating that students take at least one online course before graduating from high school.

An important step for states considering such a requirement is to define what they mean by virtual learning and taking an online course, because definitions can vary. The motivation behind the requirement is key, too.

“Access at home and in school is really important,” said Allison Powell, vice president of state and district services at the International Association for K-12 Online learning (iNACOL).

Initiating a virtual learning program to cut teacher jobs and save money is not a good approach, although Powell noted that so far, no one has started an online learning program for these reasons. “The teacher is still the most important person in the child’s education, even in the online world. [Teachers] just need to be trained a little bit differently in order to be successful in the environment—but we still need them,” she said.

In 2010, more than 4 million K-12 students participated in formal virtual learning programs, including 217,000 students in cyber charter schools, according to iNACOL statistics.

State progress

Michigan, Alabama, and Florida are currently the only states to require a virtual learning credit for high school graduation, although many other states and districts—including Idaho and Indiana—have implemented or are considering such requirements.

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Laura Ascione

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