Abstract: At The Virtual High School (VHS, Inc.) our vision is to prepare students to be successful in college, careers, and life, and that vision is best supported by building bridges, sharing resources, expanding learning opportunities, and creating a network of schools and online providers. We’re looking to expand our collaborative further by identifying additional partners to help our nonprofit with some of the challenges we’re identifying below, and we want to hear from you!
When The Virtual High School (VHS, Inc.) started over 20 years ago we were the only supplemental online provider serving K-12 students nationwide. Back then there were far fewer options for course platforms, tools, and student information systems to support online learning, so we were working with some customized and homegrown systems and performing a lot of manual and batch operations.
In the beginning, the enrollment numbers were small enough that this was manageable. In fact, the biggest challenge we faced as an organization was proving that online learning was a legitimate option for expanding student learning opportunities, and that we weren’t trying to replace teachers or local schools. We believe that the majority of students benefit from taking most of their courses through their local brick and mortar school.
It has been awesome to see many additional online program initiatives develop over the years, and we’ve been thrilled to provide guidance, share our resources and support, and also learn from many of them. This community of K-12 educators is brilliant and generous, and just as passionate about online learning and teaching as we are.
As a mission-focused not-for-profit organization, our big question is: How do we enable more choice of content and courses for our students given our very limited resources? This is a question that’s often asked by leaders in brick and mortar schools as well. To this end, there has been a good amount of effort made around collaboration and the sharing of content between virtual schools and traditional schools. But doing that requires that the content “plugs in easily,” and that’s where the issue of interoperability of courses comes into play.
We can all do the same things independently or we can join forces to be a powerhouse and benefit from shared resources. We’re all ultimately working on the same goal of preparing students to be successful. There are membership organizations, such as IMS Global Learning Consortium, which focus on developing interoperability standards for educational technology. What if that same member organization or one similar could also support a network of sharing between K-12 organizations for things like content, teachers, classrooms, learning platforms, and professional development?
The Virtual High School has been identifying partners and exploring the potential for building better distribution channels, and this has led us to a mountain of questions and challenges. When we’re considering content sharing or classroom and teacher sharing, some of the questions we’ve been discussing are:
- Where is the content being stored and served from?
- Do we need to support multiple Learning Management Systems at each school or is there a way to build this network of shared resources so it’s platform agnostic and students and teachers at each school have a streamlined and consistent user experience across courses? Can we streamline user experience for school admin and staff? How about for sys admin, training, and end user support?
- How best can we make content easily searchable and consumable by teachers and schools? How can we give teachers the freedom to choose lessons, modules, tools, activities, and/or the full course?
- How best to support content ownership, modifications, and version control, while also enabling ongoing improvement and course maintenance?
- How to support multiple sets of state and national standards?
- Who is sharing what with whom? And how to ensure healthy community with equitable give-and-take amongst providers?
- Where is the student work and data being stored? And how do we ensure data security and privacy within this network?
- How do we support various course schedules, and different release dates and due dates within the content?
- How do we eliminate hurdles and make registering for online courses as easy and consistent as registering for a local face-to-face course?
- How can we best track progress, success, and gaps across systems?
- How do we do all this without breaking the bank?
The future is bright, there are many high quality and innovative programs, and the networking potential is exciting!
At The Virtual High School (VHS, Inc.) our vision is to prepare students to be successful in college, careers, and life, and that vision is best supported by building bridges, sharing resources, expanding learning opportunities, and creating a network of schools and online providers. We believe nothing is more important than educating the next generation, and there is no greater superpower than teamwork! We hope you’ll consider joining us as we continue with our mission to expand learning opportunities for all of our students across the nation and around the world.
About The Virtual High School
The Virtual High School (VHS Inc.) is an online learning pioneer. Since 1996, the organization has set the standard for quality online education. VHS prepares students for college, careers, and life through supportive, instructor-led online and blended classroom experiences. The nonprofit organization provides high school and middle school courses taught in global online classrooms and online professional development for educators, as well as custom course development and offerings tailored to meet each school’s unique needs. The Virtual High School is accredited by both Middle States Association Commission on Elementary and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS), and AdvancED. Courses are approved for initial eligibility by NCAA. For more information, visit www.vhslearning.org or call (978) 897-1900.