Pennsylvania, a Forerunner in the Virtual Environment (5 out of 5)
Home education is on the rise. Not to be confused with homeschooling, home education schools are also known as virtual schools or
cyber schools. In these schools, there is a formal curriculum in place and teachers to teach it. A forerunner in this learning environment at the state level is Pennsylvania. Of all of the states participating in online learning from Kindergarten to collegiate levels, Pennsylvania is one of the most progressive.
Having said that, Pennsylvania has begun Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School, which is changing the face of education as we know it. The virtual charter school is a public school in a virtual environment. Because it is a public school, there is no cost for tuition; cost of the school is covered by state tax dollars, the same as a brick-and-mortar school. The students also take standardized tests, the same as a traditional school. The same standards also apply as there is an oversight committee, a researched curriculum, governing bodies and accountability mechanisms in place. It's all truly fascinating–and hats off to the Pennsylvania school district for its work in the e-learning world!
The Certified Teacher’s Role
Pennsylvania certified teachers run the program at each grade level from K-12. The certified teacher's role is essentially the same as the traditional teacher. He or she uses Elluminate to instruct, conference, and hold office hours. The teacher must also share email addresses and phone numbers with the families in his or her class. He or she also uses assessments to determine if the student has mastered lessons, and met objectives and benchmarks. The teacher also personalizes lesson plans to guide students to accelerate or get extra help in a self-paced learning environment.
The Parent’s Role: Academic Coach
Parents are actively involved in their student's learning because they act as the academic coach. In the role of academic coach the parent is responsible for delivery of the lessons as provided by the teacher on a daily basis. The academic coach works directly with the certified teacher to ensure the academic benchmarks are being met. It is also the parent's role to be sure his or her student can use the Blackboard (for school and class interaction/course listing and assignments), attends classes on Elluminate (the virtual classroom), and an obvious role to mediate and hold the student accountable, no different than a traditional public school.
The Student’s Role
The student's role is essentially the same as in a regular school environment. Students are responsible to do assignments, log into the Blackboard each day, show how much work they have accomplished, read and study. The Blackboard has an attendance and time on task log. Students can also participate in extracurricular clubs. Once students are enrolled in the school they have access to all of the rest of the students enrolled at the PA Virtual Charter School across Pennsylvania where peer relationships form.
As an educator in New York State, one can only hope that Pennsylvania sets the standard for the rest of the nation. I would like to see the option of cyber schools available for all families of America to give their children a home education, if they desire it. With the unprecedented rate of online learning growth, all states should at least offer the option to families who would rather use the virtual environment for learning than a traditional brick and mortar school.
Read more: Online Charter Schools A Big Hit