Ask an Expert Questions

October 17, 2011

Ask the Expert: Social Tech Questions


One of my daughter’s classmates did not return to school this year – instead she is attending a virtual school. Is this the same as home schooling?



Response: While some kids will ride the bus to school this fall, almost a million students will arrive to class through an Internet connection as they log into their new academic year at a virtual school.


The only thing similar between a virtual school program and a home school program is that a large part of the learning occurs outside of a traditional classroom. Unlike home schooling programs, virtual school lessons are assigned by certified teachers, there is a principal and administration at a virtual school, students must meet attendance requirements (truant students are removed), and must participate in all state assessment tests.



Virtual schools are the fastest growing trend in education. Sound intriguing? Here are some of the common myths debunked when it comes to attending a virtual school.



Virtual school students spend too much time in front of the computer. False. Virtual schools require only about 20-30% of a student’s learning time online, with much of the other work and activity from offline books, materials, and studying.



Kids won’t have any opportunities to socialize. Not at all. Contrary to assumptions, virtual schools offer a wide variety of social opportunities and experiences, and face to face interaction with teachers and peers.



Virtual schools teach different subjects than traditional schools. Not usually. Virtual schools have a set curriculum chosen by the school’s governing body (parents/students can’t “pick and choose” curriculum). However, students must participate in all state assessment tests and virtual schools are accountable to state and federal accountability standards for academic performance and fiscal operations, so curriculum generally coincides with general public school lessons.



Students need a computer to be a part of a virtual school. This is true, however, many virtual schools provide families with a computer on loan from the school, and an Internet connection is often reimbursed. Just like a traditional school offers buses, desks and books at no cost to the students, a virtual school offers a computer and online connection to eliminate barriers.



Virtual schools are not prepared to deal with a special needs child.  On the contrary. In fact, that’s one of the main attractions of a virtual school. Children with transportation issues, physical limitations or health concerns can log into school wherever they are and continue with their studies. Virtual schools can even provide full service special education for children with IEPs (Individual Education Plans).



While not every state offers a virtual school yet, the trend is growing fast. Find out if a virtual school is offered in your area by searching online under “(your state) virtual school” or visit, a virtual school with programs developing in almost half the states across the country.








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