By Sayantani Banerjee March 24, 2017
According to a market research report by Technavio, virtual schools in North America are set to grow at a rate of 13% between now and year 2021. The main drivers of the growth are attributed to the demand for cloud-based learning, increases in digitization, and the growth of custom learning approaches.
Schools, where learning takes place via online methods, are known as virtual schools. These schools appeal to parents who are in high mobility careers with busy schedules. There are some families that are unable to enroll their children in normal schools due to factors ranging from time-zone issues to lifestyle, financial considerations, and distance. For some, availability of courses in a desired time slot is impossible. Virtual schools take care of all these issues and more.
With the rising demand for distance learning, virtual schools have gained immense popularity. Distance learning is a boon for people who do not wish to travel to the venue and attend classes physically. In virtual schools, it does not matter from where you are attending the classes. You can learn from the comfort of your living room or while traveling. All learning assets are delivered virtually or through supplemental materials that students can access in any location. Students can earn credits in their choice of subjects and cite them while applying for higher education. The fee is comparatively lower than traditional private institutions.
The ease and flexibility offered by virtual schools is attracting more and more students from around the globe. Seeing the demand, nearly forty states in the United States have adopted virtual schooling. They have invested deeply in amenities and infrastructure. Some examples are Florida Virtual School, Guthrie Virtual School, and so on.
In North America, the virtual schools market includes both international and local vendors. The foreign players are driving to increase their market share. The local vendors are finding it difficult to compete in terms of price, quality, and technology. Some vendors are Mosaica Education, K12 Inc, Connections Education, and White Hat Management. Others include Alaska Virtual School, Abbotsford Virtual School, and Basehor-Linwood Virtual School.
As per the research report by Technavio, the virtual schools operated by private educational management organizations (EMOs) dominate the market. They are expected to grow faster in the coming years due to factors such as better facilities, suitable student-teacher ratio, and on-time graduation rates.
Virtual schools have huge benefits. But there are some cons too. Policymakers will have to keep them in mind while framing policies around virtual education.
One disadvantage is the lack of social interaction. Students may feel isolated and may not learn essential social skills . Sitting in front of a computer may not provide the mental stimulation that a physical class discussion provides. Students also have limited communication with the instructors. Since virtual schools are technology intensive, a minor snag at the students’ end can result in them not being able to complete assignments or miss crucial sessions. It may be difficult to transfer virtual credits to on-site colleges that do not acknowledge them. Again, financial aid is not available at all virtual institutions.
Keeping all these aspects in mind, state and federal agencies need to take up the responsibility of overseeing the well-being of the nation’s educational system. Schools leaders must realize the popularity of online learning and make all efforts to adopt it. Local, as well as state policymakers should consider web learning an option for their students, but they should also try and work around the disadvantages.