Florida Virtual Middle School is the first state funded virtual school, free to all students who are residents of the state of Florida (outsiders pay tuition). Funding is based on course completions, not seat time (performance based). Funding is now permanent. The school has been in existence since 1997.
Students (54,100) are all over the place (North America, Europe, Asia, South America), e.g. students with parents in the military, students going with parents on sabbatical. There are 425 teachers and 200 adjuncts.
Courses are developed by certified teachers/instructional designers, based on Florida standards and aligned with national standards. There is a wide variety of courses for middle and high school, including 10 AP courses plus review for the AP exam.
Completion rate is 80% or higher, which is quite good. They do have some measures built in to make sure that students keep working on their courses. However, it is self-paced. Enrollment started with 77 students in 96-97 (at-risk), now up to 54,100 in 113,900 half-credit courses in 06-07.
Last year, Florida passed a class-size amendment (smaller classes) and many school districts had to move kids to online courses to meet the requirement (there was about a 30,000 students).
72% public and charter
21% home schooled
34% minority (do have priority in registration process)
Use of technology:
Motivational, collaborative resources, content resources, variety of tools, etc.
Use of Elluminate, useful when kids collaborate over a distance, FLVS uses it for a lot of different events, like a global economic summit, career day, GIS day, World Hunger Day Forum, etc.
Meetings (student clubs, learning communities, e.g. Project Harmony), student enrichment (virtual office hours, oral components, exam review, virtual field trips, recess!), projects (collaborative group work), and training (30 pd opportunities per month are done online in Elluminate. It looks like FLVS very heavily depends on this tool.
Into the global classroom: http://eftours.com
Next, the presenters showed an example of a World Geography classroom. It was pretty interesting to see how content is laid out. It seems like it’s more project-based, not as linear, students can go back and redo and resubmit assignments until they master the standards. There is a lot more multimedia being used, especially videos from lots of different places. There is also more room for students to show mastery of standards in very different ways.
There is a lot of pressure from the outside. Lots of people are looking at FLVS, making sure they are held accountable for their students. Use Internet-based options like http://turnitin.com. Exams are time and password protected. They do oral components as part of student assessment. Talking with parents and students on a regular basis helps too. Plagiarism is the biggest issues they have to deal with.
I liked the attitudes of the teachers. Even though the content they teach is fairly traditional in that it is tied into standards, the teachers seem to be much more flexible in how they teach and how students learn. It was great to see some teachers who get it!! Their presentation also showed the power of online learning, and how the geographic mobility of their students is really no big deal.
Image Credit: National Council for the Social Studies: http://www.socialstudies.org/conference/