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How Four Schools Are Using Virtual Learning to Solve Unique Challenges

How Four Schools Are Using Virtual Learning to Solve Unique Challenges

Education is evolving, and for a growing number of students, spending every full school day in traditional classrooms simply isn’t the right fit. That’s why offering high-quality virtual options is becoming critical for schools, districts, and alternative learning programs. The right virtual options can help educators reach more students and empower them to pursue their passions both academically and outside of the classroom.

Just as there is no one “right” way to learn, there are many ways to implement a virtual learning program. Schools across the country are creating and building upon creative, innovative, and effective programs every year that are helping more students graduate and lay the foundation for successful, fulfilling careers.

Looking for inspiration to launch a virtual program in your organization? Here are four schools with unique virtual programs that are making a real impact on student outcomes.

Providing Options and Flexibility to Retain and Win Back Student Enrollments in Sunbury, PA

Online schools are on the rise across the country, but they are particularly popular in certain states, including Pennsylvania. School districts without online programming are losing students to alternative options that tend to operate under charter agreements, and every student lost is a missed opportunity in terms of both revenue and talent. Shikellamy School District in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, has created its own in-district virtual academy that allows students to work on courses, including career-focused electives, at their own pace, at anytime, anywhere an Internet connection is available. This flexible alternative has helped the district win back a significant number of students who had previously left to take advantage of other virtual options.

“The district was paying upwards of one million dollars to educate those students,” reported Eric Attinger, virtual academy coordinator. “Now that figure has been cut in half, perhaps more.”

Learn more about how Shikellamy Virtual Academy is bringing online students back to the district here.

Making Learning Seamless for Transient Student Populations in Jacksonville, NC

Transient student populations are a growing concern for many districts. In Onslow County Schools in Jacksonville, North Carolina, this is a particular challenge because the district serves one of the country’s largest Marine Corps bases, Camp Lejeune. Close to 50 percent of the district’s population changes schools during the course of a school year—many to another district or state—and students frequently were losing credits. The district decided to create a virtual academy to offer these students an alternative option to help ease transitions, address credit transfer challenges, and reach students being homeschooled. Now going into its third year, Onslow Virtual Academy has been well-received by students who enjoy the wide selection of core and elective courses and the flexibility of being able to work on-site at the academy’s lab and independently at home.

“About 80 percent of our population uses the blended options, two to three online courses each day and one to two in person,” explained Vikki Childress, director of virtual programs. “This allows flexible scheduling and socialization. About 15 percent are only online and never come on campus.”

Learn more about how Onslow Virtual Academy is providing mobility for a transient students here.

Putting a Positive Spin on Alternative Learning in Capac, MI

Every student learns a little differently, and whether due to social and emotional struggles, learning disabilities, or simply learning preferences, the traditional classroom doesn’t meet the needs of some of today’s students. These students can easily slip through the cracks, become disengaged in academics, and fall behind their class. Michigan’s rural Capac Community School District has created a virtual education program focused on personalizing learning to meet each student’s unique needs. The program provides mentors focused on building meaningful connections with each student and offers the opportunity for students to explore personal interests by replacing certain sections of curriculum with project-based learning.

“One learning style is not enough to reach every student,” explained Tami Zimmer, virtual education specialist. “Alternative education has an unnecessary stigma attached to it, but alternative just means a different method of delivery.”

Learn more about how the Capac Virtual Education Program is reaching all kinds of students here.

Helping a Small District Provide Big Course Offerings in Glennallen, AK

Small, rural schools and districts often struggle to offer students more than basic core courses due to limited budgets and staffing constraints. This can leave students at a disadvantage when it comes time to navigate today’s selective college admissions processes and competitive job market. The Copper River School District (CRSD) in Glennallen, Alaska, has created a virtual program that allows it to offer more than 250 different courses in a high school population of only 100 students. Relying on labs scattered throughout the district’s large geographic region and staffed by dedicated mentors, virtual courses allow students to build course schedules that are right for them without placing strain on the district’s resources.

“For example, we may have 10 students working in an e-learning lab at the same time (with one mentor), and all 10 students can be taking different classes,” explained Tammy Van Wyhe, CRSD director of teaching and learning support. “That's powerful, and the fact that we are able to address so many different needs, types of learners, interests, etc., is tremendously exciting and rewarding.”

Learn more about how Copper River School District is broadening rural students’ options here

Ready to get started with your own virtual learning program? At Edmentum, we’re proud to partner with schools, districts, and alternative education organizations to provide virtual school solutions through our fully accredited EdOptions Academy. Find out more about our state-standards-aligned curriculum, state-certified teachers, and expert virtual education consulting!