What better source to learn about virtual schools and blended learning than from the pioneers in the area—Florida Virtual School? If you need help starting your online or blended learning program, then don’t miss FLVS’ next Virtual Leadership Training (VLT) April 25 & 26 in Orlando. For information and registration, visit www.flvs.net/vlt. Meanwhile, Claudine Townley, Director of FLVS Global Services (pictured), answers some great questions for those tasked with creating and managing a virtual school—or for those simply curious and wanting to learn more. FLVS’ outstanding e-learning model has been recognized worldwide as a leader in virtual and blended learning. Hear what Claudine has to say about the background of their Virtual Leadership Training and some of the key issues they are addressing right now.
Victor: How did VLT originate?
Victor: What’s the purpose of the VLT?
Claudine: VLT is available only to school, district, state and program administrators outside of Florida. For anyone tasked with creating or managing a virtual school or blended learning program, the two-day intensive training hosted by FLVS Global is an amazing resource to help ask the right questions, do the right planning and create a blueprint for action. Participants spend two days with Florida Virtual School leaders who provide expert feedback for the development of their program. The two-day workshop addresses: hiring and staffing, funding and budget, policies, data and performance management, student recruiting and retention, accountability, curriculum, learning and performance management systems, evaluating and marketing your program.
Victor: What have been the main challenges school, district, state and program administrators face in the world of creating and managing virtual school or blended learning environments today?
Claudine: The major challenges often focus around money and policy. There are fees associated with starting any new program and dollars are never easy to come by. Additionally, adding online content to a school setting, whether virtual or blended, means changing or challenging policies—often around technology, teacher-student communication, teacher hours and “seat time.”
Victor: What are a few questions you hear time and again from administrators in this area?
How do I choose online content?
How do I hire and train instructors to teach in a virtual or blended setting?
What does continuing professional development look like?
How do we serve students with special needs within this setting?
Victor: Why does FLVS offer this, when it might assist the competition? How does FLVS benefit?
Claudine: We are educators first and foremost and feel an obligation to share our experiences, good and bad, with others, especially if we can help make changes in the success of students in the United States and around the world.
Victor: What questions should leaders in education and technology be asking themselves (whether they are involved with creating and managing virtual or blended environments or not)?
Claudine: They need to ask questions about their “who”—their students! How are they trying to help students? What are the pain points and what problems are they trying to resolve? Setting a vision upfront and then conducting a needs analysis is the first step to getting a new program off the ground.
Victor: Generally, what is the ‘blueprint for action’ when it comes to the direction of virtual and blended learning in the US at this point in time? What’s the birdseye view, your near-future outlook?
Claudine: It seems that more and more schools and school district are looking for alternate ways to help students succeed, and blended and virtual learning are a big piece of this. We are seeing more and more schools focusing on how to implement these programs into their schools in order to provide more choices for students. Ultimately, we all hope this will help students be more successful in the here-and-now and in the future, with college and careers.
Victor: Is there a technology platform that addresses all the issues your PD workshops address (hiring and staffing, funding and budget, policies, data and performance management, student recruiting and retention, accountability, curriculum, learning and performance management systems, evaluating and marketing your program)? Why not simply offer and sell that?
Claudine: We can and offer these topics through webinar sessions if requested. However, we prefer to do this training in person as it brings educators from all walks of life, from varying levels of experiences and programs and from all over the world together in the same room. The dialogue and connections are rich and varied, and there is a particular value to having everyone in our central office where we can bring in our own experts to have face-to-face discussions.
Victor: What major issues or challenges do administrators in this virtual/blended space face that we haven’t yet touched upon, and what’s your advice to them regarding these issues?
Claudine: Entering the virtual and blended space means being ready to try something new and different and being committed to changing with the technology and ideas. There is always something new (and exciting!) to learn. Keep an open mind!
Victor: Anything else you care to add or emphasize regarding blended/virtual or VLT? Claudine: For more information, registration and future 2012 VLT dates, visit www.flvs.net/vlt.