A boy explores virtual learning

The Rise of Virtual Education

Also commonly called distance learning, virtual education has been around for, well, probably longer than you think. Back in 1960, the University of Illinois took the innovative jump to create PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations), which they then expanded tremendously in 1970s, offering coursework not only to their own students, but to other universities and local schools. (Source: Innovative Learning) Today, college students can earn degrees from universities on the other side of the United States — or even take courses in other countries.

Virtual education has come a long way in a short amount of time. The history of distance learning is fascinating read. (You can find out more on Petersons.com.) And although these learning innovations began in colleges, over the years they’ve developed strong presences in high schools and elementary schools.

Virtual Education versus Traditional Classrooms

When personal ereader devices caught on in the ’00s, various pundits dramatically declared that the printed book would go the way of the dinosaurs. Now it’s 2018, and the print book sales that previously took a dip are once again on the rise.

A boy learns through virtual reality (VR)No one is declaring the eminent demise of the traditional classroom — at least not that we’ve heard of. Rather, in the same way that ebooks now co-exist with print books, virtual education and traditional classrooms will also share these learning spaces.

Students aren’t losing traditional classrooms. They’re gaining more options that give them the freedom to learn in the way that suits their need. The future of most brick-and-mortar schools will be a blended learning environment that incorporates technology into the traditional classroom. (Bloomberg did an excellent video segment on blended learning, which you can find on YouTube.)

Distance Learning in Indiana

Here in Indiana, the state has offered increasing support for virtual learning in recent years. The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) supports an approval process for virtual eLearning Days, which traditional schools can use “when school is cancelled, as a planned day, or as a make up day when a day of school was missed.” (Source: IDOE website). The IDOE also offers Summer of eLearning conferences that are designed to provide professional development to teachers, with a focus on technology. The conferences are hosted across the state.

And although brick-and-mortar schools aren’t going away, they certainly aren’t the only kid on the block any longer. Where colleges have lead the way on providing virtual learning options, high schools are following in their wake.

The Indiana Virtual School (INVS) is an entirely Internet-based high school that provides education to thousands of students. INVS is a public charter school offering more than 700 courses. INVS teachers hold valid licenses for teaching in Indiana, and they’re trained for online course delivery.

And here’s one of the best things about this school: It doesn’t matter where in Indiana the student lives; the student can attend full time (for free!) and earn transferable high school credit. A student from Evansville, another from Fort Wayne, and another from the Indiana countryside can all take the same course at INVS.

Are you ready for virtual learning?

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