People use a lot of different terms when they talk about Virtual Education: Blended Learning, Virtual Schools, or Virtual Programs.

While we hear these words used interchangeably, it’s fair to wonder if there is a difference? And, how are schools and districts using these terms to define their virtual education programs? Many of our clients have shared their virtual education stories with us, so, let me breakdown for you what they’re saying:

Calcasieu Co. in Louisiana has created a successful blended learning program through Blackboard Learn using tools such as blogs, wikis and podcasts to facilitate collaboration between students and teachers and encourage higher order thinking and problem solving skills. Blended learning combines the traditional brick and mortar school building with the Blackboard Learn platform and is commonly used to extend the school day and bring in engaging 21st Century learning tools to the curriculum.

In our recently released eduviews report on Virtual Education, we focused on telling stories about 100% virtual courses.   Many school districts are adding Virtual Programs to their curriculum offerings in order to address credit recovery needs, or to offer AP courses to a broader number of students spread throughout the district.  We also see Virtual Schools, either at the district or state level, whose sole purpose is to offer virtual courses to students in order to enrich subject offerings for all students equitably, increase scheduling flexibility, ensure high quality teaching, and more.

Through our experience working with hundreds of districts and schools, it does not seem that there is one type of virtual education that meets everyone’s needs. Tom Vander Ark, (our BbWorld 2010 keynote speaker) recently blogged about 10 Blended High School Models that are in operation or development on his blog, EdReformer. It is clear that the most successful online learning implementations are those that began by addressing a specific need – be it professional development, course access, or something else.

To one of our clients, Medina City Schools in Ohio, there’s no one size fits all approach for learning since every child learns differently. What they are able to do with The Blackboard Learn platform is provide students and teachers with options that fit each child and, by gradually filtering Blackboard Learn into the daily lives of students, teachers and administrators, they expect they will be able to customize the very essence of their learning and working worlds. As their Superintendent, Randy Stepp said, “Every child learns differently. What we want to do is have options that fit each child so that they can learn at the highest level possible.” To read the full article, click here: Cleveland Sun News.

If you’re trying to figure out where your most acute needs are, check out the Online Learning Assessment Tool we have created to help you get started.

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