Online Learning Provides Mastery-Based Learning for Students

FLVS Students, Photo Courtesy of

“When I tuck my children into bed each night and take the laptops off their beds, I see that they were recently looking at Civil War photos on the National Archives website, playing with a pyramid maze on the British Museum website, or translating their names into hieroglyphs,” says Kelly Gutensohn, a parent of ten Florida Virtual School (FLVS) students ranging from five to 28.
Gutensohn enrolled her students in FLVS after dabbling in home education and traditional public and private schools. “A lot of these alternatives were good, but none offered everything we needed,” she recalls. “We needed record keeping, daily lesson plans, feedback, expert instructors, and the freedom to be family, working wherever and whenever we needed.”
Some parents may hesitate to enroll students in online programs and worry that their students may not receive the feedback, face-to-face time, or interaction needed to be successful in their coursework and later in life.
“We entered the program with no preconceived ideas and, in fact, a lot of skepticism,” says Gutensohn. “At first it felt like I was dropping my children’s education into the ‘black hole’ of the Internet. Is it possible that they could actually receive a quality education through the wireless router in our house?”
Gutensohn recalls that the first few weeks required some adjustments with hands-on support from parents and teachers. FLVS teachers provide daily feedback and interaction over the Internet and on the phone. In addition, teachers conduct monthly phone calls with parents in order to discuss how each student is progressing in the course.
Gutensohn says, “We don’t see the teachers face-to-face in FLVS, but we talk to them regularly. With this much involvement, students thrive.” FLVS instructors are available for extended hours from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. weekdays via phone, email, and text messaging.
The management and flexibility of online courses allows students to schedule their own studying and instruction time, but still has proven to challenge Gutensohn’s children. “The classes have not been easy and the instructors have not been pushovers,” says Gutensohn. “But the classes have been interesting and creative. The instructors have been available and enthusiastic.”
“It all boils down to mastery,” says Gutensohn. “The children work at their own pace and submit assignments until they completely master the subject matter. In all of my experience with schools, including my own or my children’s’ experiences, I have never had so much interaction with teachers as I have had with FLVS.”
“The instructors are a vital part of acquiring mastery. FLVS teachers are amazing and consistently display a desire for the student to succeed,” says Gutensohn. “The amount of time that the students spend talking to adult teachers has given my children confidence in talking to adults in other situations.”
Her daughter, Rachel, who works at Universal Studios, has been promoted multiple times and even invited to lunch with the CEO. Gutensohn says her interaction and communication with FLVS teachers taught her to speak politely and intelligently with adults.
Online programs also give students a great deal of flexibility. This has made it possible for Gutensohn’s children to do schoolwork from anywhere, anytime. “They have turned in assignments at midnight as often as they have turned them in during the daylight hours,” says Gutensohn. “We have done schoolwork at the beach, at home, in a hotel, in bookstores, in libraries, and even at Universal Studios.”
Gutensohns says parents who are considering enrolling their students in FLVS or other online programs in the United States should jump in with two feet because the programs offer so much flexibility, opportunity, personalized learning, and individual feedback.
“FLVS gives them a love of learning, which they will carry with them throughout life,” says Gutensohn, “and to me that is success.”

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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Dana Reinecke

Yes! Jump in with both feet! We're thrilled to see your take on online education - we've been writing about its attributes, including flexibility, as well!

Vivianne Nieves

My son Christopher Nieves and I, just recently got involved four weeks ago with the virtual school. At first I was not sure if I was making the best choice for my son. After a month of ups and downs, we finally grasped the concept. I have never been so involved in my son's education, I can keep track of him on a daily basis. We love the freedom of working at our own pace at any time of the day. As a parent, nothing can compare to the feeling of being fully involved and in control of our "educational destiny", or future. There is no time wasted, every minute counts. I have been in more communication with teachers, than I have ever been, and nothing can be hidden from me. Its amazing! We are exited, self motivated and I trully feel with FLVS that the sky is the limit. The tools are there, the support, records, it is really up to us how far we will decide to go!


Tom Vander Ark

Thanks Vivianne, sounds like you're both working hard but seeing results.

Sarah Cargill

We love hearing this feedback, Vivianne. Thanks!


Kelly Gutensohn is the worst person you could have quoted for this story. The only reason her kids are in any kind of school at all right now is because the Department of Child Services was going to take her kids away. Until then, none of her children were in school at all. So her fear of "dropping them into an education black hole" or whatever stupid thing she said is complete fiction. She's doing the bare minimum that she can get away with to keep her kids so she and her con-artist husband can continue writing them off on their taxes (btw they are STILL claiming as dependents ALL of their adult children who do not live at home).

Kate C.

(btw they are STILL claiming as dependents ALL of their adult children who do not live at home)
lol- how do you know this? Are you their accountant?

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