Shrugging off the limitations of distance, time, and physical presence, technology and education have come together to create the first Virtual High School on the Internet, available on demand, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. By offering elective courses that individual school districts usually cannot afford, the Virtual High School is viewed as particularly advantageous for rural and small schools that lack the resources of their larger metropolitan counterparts.
Funded by a $7.4 million Education Technology Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the Virtual High School involves 27 schools with 550 students in 12 states and 3 countries. The School is a project of the Concord Consortium, a nonprofit educational research and development organization. Project co-authors are Concord president Dr. Robert Tinker and Dr. Sheldon Berman, superintendent of Hudson Public Schools in Hudson, Massachusetts.
“As education approaches the 21st century, the learning environment must be able to meet the growing demand for new ways to learn,” explained Bruce Droste, director of Virtual High School, adding that the integration of technology and learning to deliver courses asynchronously over the Web helped teachers and students “overcome physical and geographical obstacles in the pursuit of a quality education.”
The enabling technology for the Virtual High School is a joint effort of Interliant, a leading network application service provider based in Houston, Texas, and Lotus Development Corporation. Interliant provides the advanced application hosting services for Lotus LearningSpace, which delivers the teacher-developed courses in a collaborative, interactive manner via standard Web browsers. LearningSpace is already in use in forty colleges and universities around the world.
“The era of the virtual school has arrived,” said Jim Lidestri, Interliant’s president and CEO, “and the strategic outsourcing of the technology involved is a key component in its success.”
George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is [email protected].