A Guide for Creating a Virtual School

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February 05, 2021 Dawn McAvoy By Dawn McAvoy
High school girl at home working on laptop

If your district is struggling to bring all students back to school for in-person learning, you’re not alone. Many factors are affecting how, when, and if students will return including bus schedules, negotiations with teacher unions, and the reticence of some parents.

A recent study by Education Next found that parents of 74 percent of students are satisfied with the response of their schools even as they report learning loss.

So how do you keep these loyal students and families engaged with your school district? One option is to create your own virtual school that is tailored to your region and personalized for your students.

How to create a virtual school that engages students and builds confidence with parents

Identify the needs of your students, parents, and teachers

  • How connected are your students? Will you need to provide hotspots? Or partner with your local broadband provider to get families connected with enough bandwidth to support video streaming?
  • Do you have teachers in your district who embraced remote learning with enthusiasm and adaptable instruction? Get their feedback on what worked and what didn’t, and consider asking them to join the virtual school team.

Design a virtual program around those needs

  • Understand that you’re creating a unique learning experience, not replicating an in-person school day online. Similar to working from home, learning from home eliminates bus rides or parent shuttles to school, freeing families up to do online learning when it works best for them.
  • Provide opportunities for students to collaborate with peers. Not only does this help keep students accountable by analyzing and evaluating content in a group discussion, it also helps them feel connected socially.
  • Create a reasonable schedule for pace and progress to help students and teachers be on the same page.
  • Identify ways your virtual school program will empower students and give them ownership of their individual learning plan.

Create one portal for your virtual school program

  • Consistent communication should be a cornerstone of your virtual school.
  • Providing one portal for parents and students will reduce confusion and encourage engagement with your messages, online resources, and technical support.
  • Communicate with compassion and easy-to-understand language. Identify and serve non-English speaking families as needed.

Vet a digital curriculum partner

  • At its best, a virtual school program engages students with a “learn by doing” approach that challenges them at just the right level.
  • Make sure your digital curriculum partner uses curriculum that is built to the standards, identifies what your students already know, and provides formative assessments.
  • Not enough teachers to get started? Look for a digital curriculum provider that can help fill teacher shortages to get started and when needed in the future.

  • Ensure that individualized learning plans are offered to both students who need more instruction as well as those who are ready to move on.

  • Your digital learning curriculum should give students choices with their path, pace, and place of learning.Look for a digital curriculum that provides teachers with insights into student mastery to drive instruction.

  • A digital curriculum that includes Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) support address parents’ specific concerns right now.

Create excitement and launch your virtual school

  • Communicate with a regular cadence with families, students, and teachers to build excitement about your virtual school offering.
  • Provide a singular eLearning Guide to help train students, families, and teachers how to use the one portal to your virtual school.
  • Using your eLearning Guide as the foundation, offer multiple trainings, both virtually and in-person, to help students, families, and teachers get up to speed.

Monitor and measure the success of your program

  • Work with students to set goals and give them agency in creating their individual learning plan.
  • Empower teachers to regularly monitor and review student data so they can better guide their students’ learning and provide interventions to those who are struggling.
  • Lean on your digital curriculum success expert who can help you navigate any challenges and also provide you with data so you can track the success of your virtual school.

With a virtual school model, school districts can provide families with alternative options to keep students in their home district. Learn how.

Want more info on launching your own Virtual School? We’re here to help you right now.

To learn how we can quickly help you set up a robust, agile virtual school tailored to the needs of all stakeholders in your district, reach out to us today.

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