Virtual schools are an alternative to traditional
Courses are internet-based and allow the student to
learn and complete assignments without
participating in face-to-face instruction like in a
Students can either learn synchronously, in which
instruction is given in real-time or asynchronously,
which allows students to access materials whenever
According to Clark (2001), “A virtual school is
here defined as an educational organization
that offers K-12 courses through internet- or
web-based methods. Virtual K-12 education is
a form of distance education. Distance
education might be formally defined as formal
education in which a majority of the instruction
occurs while the teacher and learner are
separate” (p. 8).
Sanctioned by state government to act as the state’s virtual school
EX: Florida Virtual School, founded in 1997
Consortium & Regionally-Based:
National, multi-state, state-level, or regional; courses are shared
EX: Massachusetts, Virtual High School Inc.
Agency-Based Local Education:
Supplemental for home-schooled students
EX: Houston, Houston Independent School District Virtual School
Virtual Charter Schools
Exempt from certain rules and regulations, these state-chartered
entities are both nonprofit and for-profit
EX: Kansas, Basehor-Linwood Virtual Charter School (Clark, 2001, p. 6)
EXAMPLES OF VIRTUAL SCHOOLS
Students can learn at their own pace
Students with disabilities are able to learn
Geography is no longer an issue
Students can feel more comfortable
Students that might otherwise drop out can
stay in school
“The hardest part about taking an online course is staying up to date. This
course taught me more self-discipline in one semester than in all of my
other years combined.”
– Colorado Online Student (NACOL, 2006)
“I think that students should take online courses because it teaches them
how to be independent about their studies. I feel that it helps you out with
college in the long run. College is more independent than high school and
online classes help.”
- Colorado Online Student (NACOL, 2006)
WHAT “REAL STUDENTS” ARE SAYING
So how can I possibly argue
with these advantages?
The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning
A journal that exists for the sole purpose of advancing virtual schooling
The majority of published articles on virtual schooling are through IIRODL
North American Council for Online Learning
A nonprofit centered around online and blended learning
Florida Virtual School
A U.S. Department of Education report published in September
2010 found that more study was needed to determine the
effectiveness of online education for kindergarten through 12th
grade students (Dept. of Education, 2010).
Students have one job: to be students
Absence of guidance
What if the content “just doesn’t interest” them?
At risk students
STUDENTS CAN LEARN AT
THEIR OWN PACE
“One thing I thought you might consider working on
is the videos. The first video [the introduction] was
easy to understand and short and I liked that… also
the last two videos were longer and didn't really
“I liked how there were videos to watch so it wasn't
just reading but the video [on the Hundred Years
War] was a little boring to watch.”
Segregation / alienation
IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)
1997 and amendments in 2004
STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES ARE ABLE
TO LEARN FROM HOME
Argument that better suits developing countries
Question of quality
GEOGRAPHY IS NO LONGER AN ISSUE
We live in this life, not SecondLife
Interpersonal communication– it’s a skill!
STUDENTS CAN FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE
Brick-and-mortar schools can actually help
Virtual schools are not the answer
Main reasons students drop out indicate that they may also drop out
of virtual schools
A Minnesota state evaluation found that their students’ completion
rates in online courses were decreasing. They also found that full-
time online students were more likely to drop out than their peers
STUDENTS THAT MIGHT OTHERWISE
DROP OUT CAN STAY IN SCHOOL
Between 2010-11, 66 percent of students who enrolled in
Florida Virtual School courses withdrew in the first month and
returned to traditional schooling (Catalanello and Sokol,
Half of Colorado’s online students end up leaving within a
year to return to their neighborhood schools and post lower
scores when they do. In 2010, online schools produced three
times more dropouts than graduates. Over a four-year period,
online students’ scores averaged 14 to 26 percentage points
below the state average in reading, writing and math
(Hubbard and Mitchell, 2011).
RETURN TO TRADITIONAL SCHOOLING
Virtual schools lack the guidance, attention, and specialized
training that is available to them in traditional educational
Based on research that analyzes the reasons students drop
out of school, providing a virtual learning environment will not
solve the crisis. Interventions, early detection, making
learning relevant, further research, and community action
plans will be more effective
Students with disabilities will be, in the long term, only hurt
by the lack of mobilization and socialization that is associated
with attending a traditional school with trained professionals
Over half of the students that enroll in online schools in
states such as Florida and Colorado return to traditional
schools without gained knowledge
Bridgeland, J., Dilulio, J., & Morison, K. B. (2006). The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High
School Dropouts.Civic Enterprises for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Barth, P., Hull, J., & Andrie, R. (2012). Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools. Center for
Public Education National School Boards Association. Retrieved May 27, 2014, from
Catalanello, R., & Sokol, M. (2012, January 7). Success of Florida Virtual School is Difficult to
Measure. Tampa Bay Times.
Clark, T. (2001). Virtual Schools: Trends and Issues. A Study of Virtual Schools in the United
States. WestEd Distance Learning Resource Network, 8.
Furger, R. (2008, December 8). How to End the Dropout Crisis: Ten Strategies for Student
Retention. Retrieved May 27, 2014, from http://www.edutopia.org/student-dropout-retention-
Hubbard, B., & Mitchell, N. (2011, October 4). Troubling Questions About Online
Education. Chalkbeat Colorado.
Means, B., Toyama, Y., & Murphy, R. (2010) Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online
Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies. U.S. Department of
Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development.
NACOL (2006). Virtual Schools and 21st Century Skills. The North American Council for Online
Nobles, J. (2011). Evaluation Report: K-12 Online Learning. Office of the Legislative Auditor,
State of Minnesota.
Neild, R., & Balfanz, R. (2006). Unfulfilled Promise: The Dimensions and Characteristics of
Philadelphia's Dropout Crisis, 2000-2005. Johns Hopkins University.
Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 1972-2008.
(2010, December 1). Retrieved May 28, 2014, from
Whittingham, K. (2010). The Relationship Between Motor Abilities and Early Social
Development in a Preschool Cohort of Children with Cerebral Palsy. Research in
Developmental Disabilities, 31, 1346-1351.
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