Virtual, or online, learning has become a flagship for innovation in schools and districts in recent years. It’s called the next big thing, a route to personalized learning. But did you know that virtual learning has been around for more than two decades?
Plugging into Virtual Networks
In 1994, the CALCampus (originally the Computer Assisted Learning Center) offered the first online learning opportunities that incorporated instruction and interaction between students and teachers over the internet. This means that virtual learning is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year!
Surprisingly, virtual learning continues to be an afterthought in a lot of districts. Many have few personnel dedicated to creating and maintaining online learning initiatives. Big players in the online arena, such as Florida Virtual School and Michigan Virtual University, have set the standard for quality online instruction. But may small programs struggle to move away from dry articles, multiple choice tests, and “reply to two peers” discussions.
With massive technology budgets and curriculum and instruction departments, virtual learning administrators and teachers often find themselves left out of the conversation. Because virtual learning offers opportunities that otherwise would not be available to students, however, more and more districts are looking at these small departments as possible foundations for personalized learning.
Building the Network
Alone, the task can seem daunting. Virtual learning administrators and teachers may find themselves struggling without a team to collaborate with. New initiatives may not succeed because there simply aren’t enough perspectives in the planning stage. The answer to this problem is networking. When a lone educator connects with a like-minded educator from another district, state, or even another country, the power of their collective experience is exponential. Helping each other predict problems and solutions, providing insight, and sharing information about curriculum providers is valuable when building a new program or growing an existing one.
The TCEA Virtual Learning Special Interest Group (VL-SIG) provides that network. This special interest group has administrators, teachers, and coaches who have been working in the online arena or whose district or school is looking to step into the arena for the first time. The collective experience of the members of VL-SIG is extremely valuable, regardless of where you find yourself in online learning. Connecting with this network is simple and affordable. Membership costs $20 per year and can be added to regular TCEA membership at any time.
TCEA’s VL-SIG is hosting the Connected: Online and Blended Innovators (COBI) conference on October 4, 2019, in Keller, Texas. COBI is a one-day networking conference where online and blended-learning administrators and teachers can collaborate. A light breakfast and lunch is provided. Registration is free for VL-SIG members, $20 for non-members (includes VL-SIG membership), and $69 for non-TCEA members (includes membership in TCEA and VL-SIG). If you think you have a great idea that needs to be shared, consider completing the call for presenters, which is due by August 2. You can register for the event here.