Virtual schools booming as states mull warnings

The Utah law that expanded students’ online school options also set new compensation rules for online schools—they get half the money up front, but the rest only for those students who finish the courses. Florida also pays only for completed courses, not by students enrolled. Oregon set up a task force to come up with better governance for virtual schools, and Washington passed a 2009 law setting up an agency within the Department of Education to vet applicants wanting to set up online schools.

Wisconsin earlier this year became the first state to require 30 hours of additional training for online teachers.

“The majority of teachers still haven’t learned to do this, and online education is a distinct skill,” said Dennis O’Connor, who teaches online education for graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

O’Connor, who teaches his Wisconsin graduate students from his home in San Diego, embraces online learning but notes, “There’s no proof one way or the other at this point if a total online learning experience is a good thing or a bad thing,” O’Connor said.

Moe, the Stanford professor, said that states holding back on virtual learning are ignoring reality.

“Twenty years from now, a typical child will be going to a hybrid school,” he said. “They’ll be going to a physical location, but computers will do 80 percent of the teaching.”

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

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