Virtual schools booming as states mull warnings

Jazmyn Styles, a 17-year-old senior at Pike High School in Indianapolis, said she takes online courses during the summer to free up time during the regular school year for college credit courses and internships.

She said she’s in regular contact with her online teacher through Skype, instant messaging, and eMail.

“I like working at my own pace. Because when you’re in a normal classroom, the teacher can only work as quickly as the slowest student,” she said.

What about the teachers?

Kristin Kipp, a high school teacher at Colorado’s Virtual Academy in Jefferson County, said she worried about connecting with students one-on-one when she switched to an online setting, but found that she got to know her students more through their steady stream of texts, eMails, and phone calls.

Kipp said teachers need to be proactive to maintain regular communication with students to help them succeed.

“My constant message in an online classroom is, ‘I see you, I know you’re there,'” she said. “So kids are constantly getting messages from me saying, ‘Hey your grade went up 5 percent this week. Congratulations, keep up the hard work.'”

For more news on virtual learning, see:

How to start a successful virtual learning program

Annual report reveals online learning’s rapid rise

More states look to online learning for students

Virtual learning acquisitions shake up marketplace

iNACOL updates its online teaching standards

The nation’s largest industry group for online schools, the Washington, D.C.-based International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), says states would be foolish to apply the brakes to online school expansion. Group CEO Susan Patrick pointed out that about one in three college students now take some courses online, and about 50 percent of workforce training is believed to be done online.

“The world has moved online, no question,” Patrick said. “You have to ask, when did face-to-face learning become the gold standard for education?”

At the same time, the group says states need to do a better job overseeing online schools.

“You absolutely must have accountability, and in some cases, it’s not there,” Patrick said.

That’s starting to change.

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