Opinion: Virtual schools are a critical piece of education’s future

Its statewide program, the Florida Virtual School, boasts nearly 125,000 students and saw a 25-percent increase in attendance in the last year, according to the survey. (See “States boost access to online education.”)

The CDE survey revealed that at least 27 states have statewide online-learning initiatives—two of the states have statewide programs in place that are not led by the state itself—and another four states have plans to implement online-learning programs soon.

American schools are considered by many to be the best in the world, but as times change, needs shift, and students evolve, it’s important for schools to adopt appropriate innovations.

A virtual school, as a disruptive technology, is an interesting concept, because it might be possible to maintain the positive and important characteristics of American education—local control of the curriculum, state rather than national accreditation, independent school districts operated by local administrators and boards of directors, and funding supported by the communities being served—while schools evolve into something different, yet familiar.

While what is good about American education can also be problematic, the disruption caused by the virtual-school movement might produce a system that builds on strengths, yet is capable of serving the future needs of children.

Christensen likes to say that, because of disruptive technologies, these are “scary” times for managers in big companies. It is likely that because of distance education and virtual schooling, the next few years are going to be very scary for school superintendents, college presidents, and training directors as well.

Michael Simonson is a program professor in Nova Southeastern University’s Instructional Technology and Distance Education program. He is the editor of the Quarterly Review of Distance Education and Distance Learning Journal.

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