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The "Disrupting Class" discussion has led some of us to seriously consider the possibility of creating a virtual independent school (VIS). In this thread I hope we can begin to flesh out the design of a VIS, along with a process that might actually lead to the creation of a VIS.

I've done some preliminary brainstorming on this wiki (Virtual Disrupting Academy) and will continue to develop the model presented there. However, that is just one approach and I'm sure there are many others.

Questions I hope will be explored in this discussion include:

•What advantages (if any) does a VIS bring over existing virtual school offerings?

•What courses would be offered, who would develop/teach them, what would the teacher compensation be, etc.?

•How would the courses of the VIS be marketed, what would be the entry requirements, what would the cost be, etc.?

•How would a VIS be governed?

•How would a VIS interact with existing independent schools?

•What would be the costs associated with a VIS?

•How might the startup of a VIS be funded?

•What essential elements would need to be in place for a VIS to have a good chance of succeeding?

Looking forward to a hearty discussion on this subject.

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Fred, I hadn't stayed up to speed on all the thinking that's being put into this. Yesterday, however, while researching the Florida Virtual School, I realized that they put on workshops called, Virtual Leadership Trainings, designed for those who want to run their own virtual school. Seems like a great place to start.
I find it funny that the Virtual Leadership Trainings are not virtual - you have to attend in FLA.
Ha ha, that's too funny; the irony totally eluded me.
Interesting conversation! My feeling about virtual schools is that face to face shouldn't go away completely. I think it brings everything home for a learner when you can meet people from a virtual community in real life. Think about how many of us felt meeting colleagues from here or Classroom 2.0 at BLC and NECC!
Along these lines... I believe deeply that academic, social, aesthetic and physical development are all important and all interrelated. I also believe in the student creating connections with the community. How would we provide for physical development in a VIS? Would there be some sort of community service project requirement? All this is easier if the VIS can include a Face-to-Face element, though since I live in a relatively rural area, I know that could be hard to manage for many.
Arvind, I just happened to have ISTE's "Learning & Leading with Technology" magazine next to my computer while reading your post, and the article that I had randomly opened was on Florida Virtual School! The title of the article is "Virtual Success-Transforming Education Through Online Learning" by Julie Young, Pam Birtolo and Raven McElman. I can't seem to find an electronic version that is accessible without a password; to otherwise I would have posted a link here. I will post again if I have anything meaningful to add after reading the entire article.

Regards,
Ahsan
I currently teach for the Texas Virtual School. They have a required Web Instructor's Certification Course for anyone who wants to teach for them. They also require the teachers to have Texas teacher certification.

Would we be able to develop a virtual school that could accept certified teachers from any state or would it require national certification?
I agree with this... the importance of helping teachers learn how to be good online instructors. I taught a course about eLearning for Hopkins a few years ago and had the students outline some resources on this topic. The wiki they did this on is at: https://twt.wikispaces.com/eLearning
Please feel free to join & add to that wiki :)

Doing good online teaching requires an additional skillset to the normal set of teacher tools as does being a good online student. Learning these skills may initially be a challenge, but as more schooling is offered & taken virtually, this issue will decline in importance.
This is a little radical... but does certification guarantee that one is going to be a decent teacher? If I were going to invent a school of the future, I would want to rethink some of the traditional boundaries. Just a thought.
I am interested in collaborating on the Virtual School. Please add my name so that I may contribute ideas on information and communications technology skills and virtual library services. This is an exciting project. bjansen@sasaustin.org. Thank you.
Hi Fred -- I love the idea of VCS -- Here's what I see as the important factors:

1. We need to rethink what online education means. I think that Liz Davis hit the nail on the head last week on our webcast (http://edtechtalk.com/21cl_82) when she said that the next wave may be online games instead of moodle or some online environent.
2. You are correct in saying that the social web/media/learning environment is the space that has not really had too much competition, but it's coming fast. I recently saw an ad for game based courses at K12.com or Florida Virtual School.
3. To work on this among Independent Schools, we need a group of faculty, administration, and I would argue, private partners (who are experiences programmers/web designers/instructional designers) who understand instructional design and are willing to experiment and fail in certain circumstances.

Here are some of my answers to your questions:

What advantages (if any) does a VIS bring over existing virtual school offerings?

I think that the concept of getting the smartest faculty on a certain subject together to design a super course on the topic that is engaging and available online is the most exciting part of this. Getting great teachers together to think about how to engage students in these spaces and provide the best possible learning experience for students is so compelling. Imagine having the best history teachers in the country get together to design a walk through US History or Global History?

•What courses would be offered, who would develop/teach them, what would the teacher compensation be, etc.?

Initially, I think that you have to start with courses that could not be taken at the current school, but I'm thinking more of junior/senior electives where you have a special faculty member offering something unique.

•How would the courses of the VIS be marketed, what would be the entry requirements, what would the cost be, etc.?

TBD.

•How would a VIS be governed?
Depends who sponsors it. I can see it being a piece of a national organization like NAIS or an independent non-profit. Maybe a college or university would sponsor it as well.


•How would a VIS interact with existing independent schools?
Through conferences or connections. That's why I think doing it through NAIS makes sense because there is already communication open between the organization and the schools.

•What would be the costs associated with a VIS?
TBD.

•How might the startup of a VIS be funded?
As I said above about sponsorship, I believe it's either a non-profit group or a national organization.


Let's keep this conversation going. I'm very interested in your thoughts/ideas. Would love to continue to explore this.

Best, - Alex
Interesting thread. Lots of great thoughts here! I am really intrigued by the notion of creating "super courses" or advanced courses that allow for a compilation of some of the most experienced instructors and eager students in any given subject area. Allowing them to congregate in a virtual space to share ideas and learn from one another in a way that simply wasn't possible 10 years ago. I tend to agree with Lucy that "face to face" time usually serves to strengthen relationships established online and would therefor be wary of a fully "virtual" environment. I would love to see the independent school world on the leading edge of this movement and I like the notion of a NAIS (or other) sponsored program that might be organized and run not unlike a term abroad?

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