In Arkansas, as in most states, student interest in online learning is skyrocketing. While most students still take at least some of their courses in a face-to-face setting, the need to scale online learning opportunities for thousands of students has required new infrastructure, new curriculum, and, of course, new teachers.
The state’s official response was to create a new program, called Virtual Arkansas, to manage its online courses and work with districts to find students who want to take them. The idea is to provide a full range of services, from catering to students in rural areas looking for a hard-to-find class to districts turning to online in the face of teacher shortages or budget cutbacks. Currently, about 30,000 students in the state take courses through Virtual Arkansas and the program employs dozens of teachers, whose experience with blended learning might be spotty at best.
Most teachers hired by Virtual Arkansas are brought on for their subject-matter expertise; few have ever taught an online course, let alone worked through the rigors of translating traditional curriculum to the online or blended environment.…Read More