Fairfax high school considers going virtual

Summary:A U.S. school is considering a move to fully virtual learning.

In Washington, Fairfax County could become the first to offer a completely virtual alternative to high school -- rather than catching the bus, students would commute only to their laptops, the Washington Post reports.

Forget sports teams and clubs -- unless they are on a forum. No lockers, no detention. Instead, your classes are constructed online, schedules and assignments based on student convenience.

The proposed virtual school will be discussed at a hearing this month. School board members are excited about the prospect, although questions concerning the cost, operations and attendance levels remain unanswered.

Superintendent Jack D. Dale said he does not believe many students would attend the digital school full-time, but rather see it as an educational option. If the proposal is approved, then the school would be open to students county-wide.

Aimed to launch in September, the sheer amount of logistics involved means this is probably over-ambitious, but the school board's officials are keen to launch 'before someone else does'. Dale says:

"It's hard to do marching band online. Kids are going to pop in and out of the virtual school. They'll just look at it as another method of taking a course, instead of face to face."

In the virtual school teachers would work via phone and email, and occasional meetings would be conducted in time for revision and exams. Students and teachers would meet through an online platform approximately one-fifth of the time, and outside of this, students would have the freedom to organize their learning themselves.

The proposed movement towards virtual learning methods arrives on the coattails of public Virginia Virtual Academy, where many younger students have begun attending. It currently enrolls approximately 500 students. 250,000 students are currently enrolled in full-time virtual schools in 30 states.

Fairfax currently offers about 50 online courses as learning options, but this figure is marginal in comparison to what a full syllabus would require. Not only this, the school officials need to explore how to offer special education services and Internet-connected computers to those without household devices.

Would students opt for the virtual school? Perhaps -- especially those that need flexibility, such as athletes or those with diabilities. However, for an average student, by taking away the social aspect of schooling it may impede the development of required social skills.

(via Washington Post)

Image credit: Philippe Put

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Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

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