Lessons Learned from Virtual Schools: Experiences and Recommendations from the Field


Virtual schools are a vibrant movement in education reform—extending the possibilities of learning beyond time and space constraints, and opening access for all students to a world-class education. Across all fifty states, there are students taking online courses in 82 percent of K–12 school districts.

Online learning is expanding access to courses in K–12 education and providing a new network of highly qualified teachers to students in underserved communities. Online learning has numerous benefits, including expanding course offerings, offering customized and personalized learning, giving students a second chance to master a subject when they have struggled, and providing a rigorous, interactive learning model for schools that is data-rich.

Lessons Learned from Virtual Schools: Experiences and Recommendations from the Field is important because it shows the dynamic models, progress, and pitfalls from the perspective of many of the state virtual schools and pioneers in virtual learning. As shown in this book, no two programs are alike. There is complexity and uniqueness in what these virtual schools do, how they do it, and the stages of growth and progress they have experienced. Lessons Learned from Virtual Schools seeks to inform others about the existing opportunities, challenges, problems, and solutions across supplemental programs and virtual schools.

Virtual schools are emerging as a powerful force for designing new educational experiences and changing the notion of what is possible. Virtual schools offer a glimpse into the future through new models for digital curriculum, performance-based assessment, and technology platforms—and serve an important function while shedding light on early and emerging transformations in next generation learning.

We are grateful to the authors of this book for sharing their pathway—their vision, 20/20 hindsight on lessons learned, identification of crossroads, and willingness to walk us down their "road less traveled"—to motivate us to make a difference.

Online and blended learning is a disruptive innovation that is powerful—and for kids, learning online comes naturally. It is time to empower students with next generation learning and to realize that the revolution in digital education is underway. Thanks to the pioneers who are leading the way and for dedicating their professional lives to enhancing student-centered approaches in virtual schools across the country.

Written by Richard E. Ferdig, Cathy Cavanaugh

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