It’s your goal to make your virtual school program successful. My goal is to help you identify the key factors that can make or break the success of that program. Here in part four of my virtual school blog series, I offer 25 things to consider for your virtual program’s success, grouped under 5 main categories: Strategy, Design, Curriculum, Support and Operations. For each item I’ve asked one key question. Work with your team to answer that question and you’ll be one step closer to a successful virtual school. (P.S. If this looks familiar, you are right. We’ve re-worked our well-received Personalized Learning Implementation Framework to focus on the needs of virtual schools. After all, why should the brick-and-mortar schools have all the fun?)
The success of your virtual school may very well depend on how you implement technology and how well you engage your community. Technology is a critical part of your virtual school’s success. Depending on your school model, your virtual school may be entirely run online. It is perhaps obvious, then, that technology is a critical component, but the importance of people and community might be less clear. In our experience, both of these matter and can make a difference between a successful program and a good effort. Below we boil this discussion down to two components to consider for these areas of utmost importance.
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Everyone loves a checklist, but for a virtual school leader, there aren’t many to be found. So here is a short one: Know (and empathize with) who you are serving Identify your critical team members Develop your instructional model and school processes Calculate your costs Clearly this “30,000 feet” list isn’t all encompassing, but it should serve as a foundation to getting things rolling.
Running a virtual school is hard. I like new beginnings. They bring hope and excitement for the future, the good things that are yet to come. Great beginnings start with a vision for what can better in the future, and by looking back at the past. So as I think about the future of virtual schools, I want to start with, and respond to, some of the negative comments about virtual schools that surfaced in 2015. One report from CREDO stated, “Attending a virtual school is literally as if the kid did not go to school for an entire school year.”
When I first began working at a start-up cyber charter school, I had so many questions about what my day would look like and what my students’ day would look like. What I have found is that after two years, our school is still molding the answers to those questions. Our school design is one that meets students’ individual needs and learning style, leading to the many wonderful strengths and opportunities of our program, but with that come many challenges. It is not easy to develop a sound blended learning model that works for students’ needs. Education Elements’ summer design workshop and continuing support this year has greatly helped us move our model forward to support these needs. From choosing the appropriate platform menu to ideal weekly scheduling, these exciting challenges will continue to take shape as we dive deeper into our students’ needs.
I have spent my life teaching, designing, training, building and innovating in the field of education. I have been a teacher, a union president, a charter school administrator, an educational software designer, an executive for a school management company and an entrepreneur. I have been politically correct, politically incorrect, offensive, defensive and in my opinion - a very likeable character. But until now...I have not been a blogger!