In May 2006, the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) launched the South Carolina Virtual School Program (SCVSP) pilot to explore the feasibility of virtual schooling for the state. The pilot was designed to give the SCDE the opportunity to test its online learning course management system, registration system, and quality assurance measure. The pilot gave the SCDE an opportunity to gauge the need for and response to the program around the state, as well as the SCDE’s strength in supporting other initiatives—such as high school redesign and adult education—and in meeting legislative mandates to give all students access to high-quality instruction.
The SCVSP pilot continued through July 2007, with collaboration from local school districts, adult education, career and technology education, and higher education to pool resources and offer a broad array of courses for South Carolina students. Assisting in the process was a program advisory committee, composed of SCDE personnel and district- and school-level educators from the pilot sites, charged with reviewing research on online learning, information from other state virtual programs, and feedback from the pilot sites to refine policies and procedures for the SCVSP.
In May 2007, legislation created the SCVSP at the SCDE and charged the State Board of Education with developing guidelines and regulations for the operation of the program. In December 2007 the State Board of Education approved the SCVSP Guidelines, which governed the implementation of the program. The initial legislation and regulations limited students to a maximum of 3 credits per school year and 12 credits maximum toward high school graduation.
In June 2013, the “Expanded Virtual Learning Act” was passed and signed by the Governor. The new revised legislation removed the caps on the units of credit a student may earn in one year or count towards a high school diploma. A student can now earn unlimited units of credit through the virtual school program. Additionally, the legislation allowed for a program name change to set the program apart as a statewide supplemental online learning program.
In August 2014, the South Carolina Virtual School Program was officially rebranded and renamed VirtualSC.
Since the program first began, VirualSC has provided South Carolina students access to distance, online, or virtual learning courses offered for an initial unit of high school credit. In addition, it has provided access to credit recovery programs for students who have been identified by a school district as not having received credit for a course previously taken or for students who have been identified as not likely to receive credit for a course in which the student is currently enrolled.
Projects and highlights:
- VirtualSC currently serves over 55,000 unique student enrollments per school year in over 90 diverse courses in all subject areas, including: English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, World Languages, and Career and Technical Education (CTE), as well as core content middle school courses. VirtualSC offers Credit Recovery, AP, and College Prep level courses for high school credit.
- In January 2021, VirtualSC began offering middle school courses to students in grades 6-8. Currently, the program offers core content middle school courses in Math, English, Science, and Social Studies, as well as Exploratory Courses to help students explore their interests prior to entering high school.
- In Fall 2014, VirtualSC began an innovative approach to virtual instruction through the use of robots to provide virtual instruction to a class of students remotely by using one of the program’s highly qualified and licensed instructors. The pilot was started as a result of some schools across the state not being able to hire and retain licensed teachers to offer diverse courses to their students. To learn more about the pilot, visit: https://virtualsc.org/blog/2014/11/19/virtualsc-pilots-the-use-of-robots-for-virtual-instruction/
- In Fall 2014, VirtualSC began offering school districts throughout the state the ability to franchise course content through use of the Franchise Program. The Franchise Program was developed as a way to allow schools to quickly and easily expand their online course curriculum to address unique challenges throughout the state. Franchise districts will use their own teachers, but have access to all of VirtualSC’s online curriculum, student information system and Learning Management System (LMS) to start their own innovative programs. https://virtualsc.org/franchise-program/
- VirtualSC offers elementary schools statewide a free virtual Keyboarding resource to help students learn how to key at a younger age. The goal of the resource is to help students learn proper typing skills in elementary school, so that they can take more advanced computer courses in high school, such as Computer Science, or Computer Programming. https://virtualsc.org/elementary-keyboarding/