Starting a Virtual School

Do students in your district have access to online courses on a full and part time basis?  Is your district offering them?  A recent survey suggests that more than half of US districts claim them are developing online options.
States and districts are approaching digital learning in different ways.  Iowa is way behind in online learning in terms of statewide options, but has one of the highest percentage of 1:1 districts in the country (about a third of the 357).
It may be time for your district to develop an virtual school or build an online learning partnership.  Here’s a half a dozen strategies that you can mix and match.
1) Partner with an online learning provider.  You can purchase curriculum and instruction from providers like K12 and Connections.  This is a great option for hard to staff subjects like STEM, AP and foreign language.
2) DIY with courseware. You can purchase courseware from Pearson or Apex and provide your own teachers where you have staff and demand.  This may is an option worth considering for core curriculum and credit recovery.
3) Specialty partner.  Your district can partner with dropout prevention specialists like AdvancePath or special education providers.
4) DIY with OER. It’s just about possible to piece together enough open courseware to offer a solid secondary curriculum, but it will be a mixture without common navigability and data collection.
5) DIY with web 2 components.  Most online courseware is still flat and sequential  content, but there are a wide variety of engaging and adaptive components.   It’s still a challenge stitching them together into a coherent offering.  About 200,000 teachers are using edmodo to mix an match content
6) DIY with homegrown content.  KC MO is piloting locally developed content running on  Brainhoney.  It’s a lot of work but it sure builds ownership.  Wendy Nevin at Internet Academy uses internally developed English and social studies content, but her college Mike Feuling uses mostly Apex in math—a mix and match may be right for you too.
iNACOL has great resources for How to Start An Online Learning Program.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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