Skip to main content

Virtual schools: The changing landscape of K-12 education in the U.S.

Abstract

Virtual schools are a growing phenomenon in k-12 education. School systems in almost every state in the United States offer some version of fully online or blended education. It is no longer far-fetched to conclude that if the current trend continues, virtual school enrollments will eclipse those of traditional brick-and-mortar k-12 institutions within the next 10 years. This paper examines some of the challenges and strengths of virtual schools, it offers questions to consider when deciding whether or not a virtual school option would be ideal, and it draws conclusions, which provide an outlook for the future of virtual schools in k-12 education.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Abrego, J., & Pankake, A. (2010). Pk-12 virtual schools: the challenges and roles of school leaders. Educational Considerations, 37(2), 7–13.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Barbour, M. (2012). Review of “Overcoming the Governance Challenge in K-12 Online Learning”. National Education Policy Center, Wayne State University. Retrieved on February 21, 2014, from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED530436.pdf.

  3. Barbour, M. (2011). The promise and the reality: exploring virtual schooling in rural jurisdictions. Education in Rural Australia, 21(1), 1–19.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Barbour, M., McLaren, A., & Zhang, L. (2012). Its not that tough: students speak about their online learning experiences. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 13(2), 226–241.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Black, E., DiPietro, M., Ferdig, R., Polling, N. (2009). Developing a survey to measure best practices of K-12 online instructors. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(1).

  6. Carnahan, C., & Fulton, L. (2013). Virtually forgotten: special education students in cyber schools. TechTrends Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 57(4), 46–52.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Cavanaugh, C. (2010). The evolving online landscape. School Administrator, 67(4), 22–25.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Barth, P., Hull, J., Andrie, R. (2012). Searching for the reality of virtual schools at a glance. Center for Public Education, National School Boards Association. Retrieved on February 5, 2015, from: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Organizing-a-school/Searching-for-the-reality-of-virtual-schools-at-a-glance/Searching-for-the-reality-of-virtual-schools-full-report.pdf.

  9. Berge, Z. L. (1998). Barriers to online teaching in post-secondary institutions: Can policy changes fix it? Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 1(2).

  10. Curry, N. (2010). Virtual counseling for students enrolled in online educational programs. Educational Considerations, 37(2), 22–26.

    MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  11. DeNisco, A. (2013). Preparing for online teaching: web-based assessment and communication skills in K-12. District Administration, 49(5), 38–41.

    Google Scholar 

  12. DiPietro, M. (2010). Virtual school pedagogy: the instructional practices of K-12 virtual school teachers. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 42(3), 327–354.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. DiPietro, M., Ferdig, R., Black, E., & Presto, M. (2010). Best practices in teaching K-12 online: lessons learned from michigan virtual school teachers. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 9(3), 10–35.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Gellman-Danley, B., Fetzner, M. J. (1998). Asking the really tough questions: Policy issues for distance learning. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 1(1).

  15. Hawkins, A., Graham, C., & Barbour, M. (2012). “Everybody is their Own Island”: teacher disconnection in a virtual school. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(2), 123–144.

    Google Scholar 

  16. International Association for K-12 Online Learning (2013). Fast facts about online learning. Retrieved on January 27, 2014, from: http://www.inacol.org/cms/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/iNACOL-Fast-Facts-About-Online-Learning-October-2013.pdf.

  17. King, J.W., Nugent, G.C., Russell, E. B., Lacy, D. (1999). Distance education policy in post secondary education: Nebraska as a case study. In Proceedings: 15th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning. University of Wisconsin, Madision. 275–281.

  18. Kennedy, K., & Archambault, L. (2012). Offering pre-service teachers field experiences in K- 12 online learning: a national survey of teacher education programs. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(3), 185–200.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Lin, M. (2011). School quality in the cloud: guidelines for authorizing virtual charter schools. Authorizing Matters, Issue Brief, NACSA Cyber Series. Retrieved on February 21, 2014, from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED544280.pdf.

  20. Miron, G., & Urschel, J. (2012). Understanding and improving full-time virtual schools: a study of student characteristics, school finance, and school performance in schools operated by K12, Inc.. National Education Policy Center, School of Education, University of Colorado, Boulder. Retrieved on February 7, 2014, from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED533960.pdf.

  21. Moore, M. G. (1994). Is there a cultural problem in international distance education? In Melody Thompson, ed., Proceedings of Conference on Internationalism in Distance Education. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University, The American Center for the Study of Distance Education, pp 188–92, 194. http://web.worldbank.org/archive/website00236B/WEB/CULT_01.HTM

  22. Natale, C., & Cook, J. (2012). Virtual K-12 learning: new learning frontiers for state education agencies. Peabody Journal of Education, 87(5), 535–558.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Quillen, I. (2011). Virtual Ed. faces sharp criticism. Education Week, 31(13), 1.

    MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  24. Reid, K., Aqui, Y., & Putney, L. (2009). Evaluation of an evolving virtual school. Educational Media International, 46(4), 281–294.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Repetto, J., Cavanaugh, C., Wayer, N., & Liu, F. (2010). Virtual schools: improving outcomes for students with disabilities. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 11(2), 91–104.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Research Services Office of Assessment, Research, and Data Analysis for Miami Dade Public Schools (2009). Virtual school literature review. Research Services, Miami Dade County Public Schools. Retrieved on February 3, 2014, from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED536253.pdf.

  27. Salsberry, T. (2010). K-12 virtual schools, accreditation, and leadership: what are the issues? Educational Considerations, 37(2), 14–17.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Stedrak, L., Ortagus, J., & Wood, R. (2012). The funding of virtual schools in public elementary and secondary education. Educational Considerations, 39(2), 44–54.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Vanourek, G. (2011). An (Updated) primer on virtual charter schools: Mapping the electronic frontier. Authorizing Matters, Issue Brief, NACSA Cyber Series. Retrieved on February 7, 2014, from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED544289.pdf.

  30. Zhao, Y. (2011). What children should know about technology and the virtual world. Principal, 89(3), 14–17.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ian N. Toppin.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Toppin, I.N., Toppin, S.M. Virtual schools: The changing landscape of K-12 education in the U.S.. Educ Inf Technol 21, 1571–1581 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-015-9402-8

Download citation

Key words

  • Virtual schools
  • Cyber academies
  • Online education
  • K-12 education
  • Distance education
  • Educational administration