North Carolina Virtual Public School: Preparing Students Today for Lives Tomorrow

By Marshburn, Holly | Distance Learning, April 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

North Carolina Virtual Public School: Preparing Students Today for Lives Tomorrow


Marshburn, Holly, Distance Learning


INTRODUCTION

Virtual schools are continuing to rise in numbers and the population of students served. Three hundred eleven full-time virtual schools were operating in the United States during the 2011-2012 school year and 338 schools serving 243,000 students in 2012-2013 (Cavanagh, 2014; Miron, Horvitz, & Gulosino, 2013). Parents are considering online learning as an alternative to traditional school because they feel their children do not learn as well in a traditional setting, they need more flexibility with scheduling, and they want their children home where they feel they are safer than in face-to-face schools (Connections Academy, 2014).

BACKGROUND

The North Carolina General Assembly, in 2005, passed the session law, 2006-66, that included the 2007 launch of the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) (2014e). NCVPS has grown to become the second largest virtual school in the country (North Carolina Virtual Public School, 2014e). As shown in Figure 1, the NCVPS organization consists of administration, operations, and instruction (Fetzer, 2013). In the 2012-2013 school year, 115 local education agencies (LEAs) and 44 charter schools offered their students NCVPS courses. In addition, 11 private students took NCVPS courses (North Carolina Virtual Public School, 2014a).

NCVPS online courses are supplementary to the classes students take in their district school. Students register for NCVPS courses through their district school and attend a computer lab during their assigned time to complete their online course work. This hybrid model allows for better student accountability and addresses any technology deficiencies students may have at home (Ingerham, 2012). Certain students are allowed to complete their course work from home.

MISSION AND VISION STATEMENTS

The NCVPS mission statements are, (a) "NCVPS provides blended learning and leadership opportunities to empower globally competitive students" (North Carolina Virtual Public School, 2014a, p. 2) and (b) "NCVPS serves learners with high quality online courses and expanded options in education" (North Carolina Virtual Public School, 2014k).

The vision of NCVPS is, "To be a worldclass model of blended learning for a new generation of global learners" (North Carolina Virtual Public School, 2014a, p. 2) and to expand minds, expand opportunities, and expand connections through blended and online learning. The faculty and staff of NCVPS strive to always put the students and their learning first (North Carolina Virtual Public School, 2014k).

THREE INSTRUCTIONAL PILLARS

The teaching philosophy of NCVPS has three instructional pillars (see Figure 2): (a) effective instructional announcements and learning blocks, (b) effective instructional feedback on all assignments, and (c) effective synchronous conversations to build relationships. First, the daily announcements have three components: due dates of assignments, sections covering new and old material, and student celebrations. Next, teachers provide quick (within 24 hours) and specific feedback on students' assignments. As a final point, teachers use different interactive opportunities to build relationships with their students and parents (North Carolina Virtual Public School, 2014k). These instructional pillars are instrumental in encouraging students' online learning success.

FUNDING

The North Carolina General Assembly creates and modifies the funding formula legislation for schools' costs for their students' enrollment. Currently, per student, schools are responsible for $235 for summer courses, $349 for block courses, and $438 for year-long courses (North Carolina Virtual Public School, 2014e). These funds cover the instructional, operational, and administrative costs of NCVPS. The budget for the 2012-2013 school year was $15,737,378 for instruction, $1,342,418 for operations, and $1,868,537 for administration (North Carolina Virtual Public School, 2014a). …

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