M D Roblyer
As microcomputers began to enter American schools and classrooms in the 1970s, an increased interest in distance learning accompanied them. Until the Internet became so popular in the mid-1990s, distance learning in schools usually took the form of supplementary and enrichment lessons (Roblyer, 2003). Except for the occasional satellite delivery or instructional television initiative for schools (US Congress, 1991; Kirby and Roblyer, 1999), the practice of offering complete courses by distance learning was primarily the province of higher education.
However, as the popularity of the Internet spiralled upward in the 1990s, online course delivery migrated steadily downward from colleges and universities to presecondary schools. Currently, there is a thriving 'virtual high school' (VHS) movement in which high school credit courses are taught largely or wholly via various resources on the Internet (Berman and Tinker, 1997; Elbaum, 1998; Carr and Young, 1999; Clark, 2001; Loupe, 2001). This chapter describes some of the characteristics of this rapidly-growing phenomenon, as well as some implementation issues and concerns, recent research findings, example virtual high schools, and visions for the future.