VLLA’s Support of Rural Online Learning
Expanding Online Learning Opportunities for Rural Students:
A VLLA & FBOL Hosted Convening
The Need for the Convening
The fourteen organizational members who comprise the Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance work with rural schools and students in numerous states across the U.S. are partnering with the Foundation for Blended and Online Learning (FBOL) board and staff to plan, facilitate and host this critically important summit. While there are significant geographic and population differences between the states a common theme among the Alliance members is the importance of these online programs’ ability to serve rural students with quality courses and instruction. These rural schools face a number of issues and obstacles in their effort to provide quality, comprehensive, educational programs to their students. Often the school is the hub and focal point in these rural communities and in many cases, because of these challenges, the very existence of the school itself is at risk. These challenges include the following though this list is not intended to be all-inclusive:
- Declining enrollments (small communities w/ little opportunity to rebound)
- High socioeconomically disadvantaged populations
- High transportation costs
- Lack of computer and Internet access in homes
- Transient students
- Low teacher pay and housing challenges
- High teacher turnover
- Scarcity of teachers for advanced courses
- Limited course offerings (focus on courses required for graduation)
- Geographic Isolation
Online and blended learning programs have been helping rural students and schools in a variety ways for years, but for many educators and advocates the important instructional role they play has not been front and center in discussions about how to improve rural education. “Many reports on rural education give little attention to digital learning, and to the extent they discuss digital it is to note either infrastructure needs or the potential of digital learning, with little focus on instruction, outcomes, or exemplars.”
The Goals/Outcomes of the Convening
- Create a platform for an open conversation with the several key national rural education organizations and state rural education experts where Alliance members and other online learning professionals can share insight into the value of online learning in rural America.
- Provide the National organizations the opportunity to share information and policies that will benefit Alliance members and others providing online learning to rural students.
- Gain valuable insight from national and state rural education association leaders into what their key challenges are and how to best work with regional stakeholders to promote and provide online learning in rural schools.
- Gain knowledge and understanding of states that do not have any rural education associations. Is there a role here for a group like this convening?
- Explore potential cooperative projects and funding opportunities where the national organizations and the VLLA and FBOL could work together to provide high quality online learning opportunities to even the most remote, rural schools.
 Digital Learning Strategies for Rural America, 2018, Foundation for Online and Blended Learning