Attend locally, attend globally
The Principal and CEO, Stephen Baker, began the Virtual High School project in 1995 when he saw a need for flexible education opportunities and outdated content in his brick-and-mortar biology class. Over time, the model proved invaluable to all types of students, including those who need to work around extracurricular commitments, are experiencing timetable conflicts, are looking to try to improve a grade, or simply are in need of a different schooling approach. For these students, traditional brick-and-mortar schools along with traditional seat time scheduling were not a great fit.
In order to fulfill their secondary education, these students required flexibility and access to high quality instructors, regardless of when or where they chose to study. Over the years, VHS has seen an increase in the enrollment of international students, which has created extraordinary opportunities for all the students who have chosen digital learning for their high school experience. Now it has become a thriving organization with plans to scale up as demand increases for online learning options.
Students are better prepared for post-secondary because they have to manage their own time.
Jackie Loebach, Marketing and User Experience
The K12 LMS benefit to all types of students
Jackie Loebach focuses on Marketing and User Experience at Virtual High School. Having spoken to and received feedback from many students, she advocates the benefits of digital learning by saying, “students are better prepared for post-secondary because they have to manage their own time, their own education.” Since students have greater control over the where and when of their learning experience, such as setting their own pace and their own deadlines, students are learning to be independent and self-reliant. Beyond the basics of the curriculum, students are developing skills that will enable them to navigate more easily to post-secondary education, to enter the workforce, and to become thriving members within their community.
Getting students onboard is an easy process for both them and administrators. Incoming students are required to take a content release quiz after reading an introduction about the school. Here, they are introduced to onboarding, procedures, how VHS handles deadlines, contact info, etc. Through the K12 LMS, applicants can attempt the quiz as many times as they need. Once passed, the rest of the course content is released. Having this process automated allows students more control over when and where they complete the first steps. At the same time, administrators are less burdened with the time-consuming work associated with onboarding. Instead, they can devote more personalized support to students requiring specific help.
Fostering an international experience
International students are given access to an Ontario education, regardless of where they live. Because brick-and-mortar Ontario schools can’t be established outside the province, it’s extremely difficult for students to access the quality of an Ontario education without relocation. VHS has been able to provide these students with experience in the Ontario curriculum, which has encouraged the growth of a wider, more diverse student body within the province.
Canadian students benefit from the inclusion of international students as well. Trevor Hallam, the Partnerships Administrator at Virtual High School, explains how the Discussion tool in Brightspace is a common part of each student’s learning experience. “By conversing with other students in the global community, VHS students have access to many viewpoints and the opportunity to enrich their educational experience.” The exposure to diverse cultures and voices has become a key reason why families have chosen to enroll at VHS. It’s simply an education that can’t be achieved in a brick-and-mortar school without international students uprooting themselves and relocating to Ontario.
The technology allows us to work from anywhere and anytime, it gives the flexibility, it gives the teachers flexibility.
John Smallwood, Co-Department Head
Professional development at arm’s reach
Currently, there are approximately 90 teachers working remotely. Using the same K12 LMS technology used by their students, teachers work with online tools for training and onboarding. This gives them a sense of what their students will be experiencing. Teachers then have more confidence when helping students navigate the technology. The online courses are designed by VHS in Brightspace. Teachers can then simply step into their role, access the content and begin teaching. This methodology saves teachers’ time and allows them to do what they do best: attending to the unique needs of each student.
By leveraging their K12 LMS’s capacity to host a virtual staff room, VHS is able to connect teachers in creative and valuable ways. The ability to upload resources such as web links, pedagogical insight, and much more, allows teachers to have an efficient tool with which to continuously build professional development. VHS is devoted to discovering innovative ways to use the Brightspace platform to enable professional development. After switching to the Daylight interface, they hope to take advantage of the graphical power and mobile functionality to build attractive and engaging PD content that teachers can access from wherever they are, and on any device.