Following up on my previous post, it seems the phrase of the week around here is “virtual learning”. Today the Post reports that our overly-large school district is considering creating “virtual public high school that would allow students to take all their classes from a computer at home”.

I have no clue if any of this is going to happen, and the same seems to be true of the administrators who announced the proposal, acknowledging that the idea is so new that there are “many unanswered questions” related to costs, enrollment and more.

But I also have a few questions they probably didn’t ask.  Like… why?

Is there really a need or demand for this concept? Other than the fact that “dozens of younger students have left” the system for the Virginia Virtual Academy, a statewide program run by K12, Inc., the “largest operator of public virtual schools” – and a company with a rather sketchy history in the area of charter/for-profit education.

I also wonder if this is a good use of increasingly scarce resources, especially considering there is very little evidence that virtual schools are effective learning environments for more than small percentage of students. Or whether an online course will cost less to operate than a physical classroom, as I’m sure some of the supporters on our school board are thinking.

Instead of putting money into developing a full virtual academy, it makes more sense to create hybrid courses, ones with an online component but still including the interaction with educators and other students that should be a core part of a high school experience.

Let’s rethink what K12 learning should be and use the many virtual tools available to enhance that new vision, rather than trying to replicate the current traditional instructional program pushed through a computer screen (which is what most virtual course do).