Over the past several years, a revolutionary trend in education has begun to emerge. With innovative programs like the Khan Academy (created by Sal Khan) and edX (run by Harvard and MIT), people can expand their horizons by taking a course or watching a short video online, free of charge. This creative innovation is not only for individuals’ personal enrichment, but it also has become part of mainstream education.
Today in Oregon, dozens of school districts and schools across the state offer online courses or exist entirely online, serving thousands of students. “Virtual learning” is one of the most exciting ways education is changing to fit the needs of all children and their families. Virtual schools and courses can help students with special needs, diverse learning styles, or different lifestyles. Kids can enjoy learning and succeed with their education, even if they would not have done so in traditional school environments.
The flexibility, customization, and accessibility of virtual learning makes it an integral tool for parents to educate their children in a way that suits their child’s most important needs. Instead of being squeezed into classrooms with 30 or more other students, children who participate in virtual learning programs can take special courses not offered by their local brick-and-mortar schools, receive individualized instruction, and learn at their own pace.
Despite the growing list of success stories, there are still many roadblocks to virtual learning, including enrollment caps, complicated transfer paperwork, resistant school districts, and the opposition of teachers unions. Many parents have difficulty meeting the burdensome, time-consuming transfer requirements. As one parent noted, “My son Austin, who is currently enrolled in his second year with Oregon Virtual Academy, has done so very well there that we are eagerly looking forward to re-enrolling him for the 2010-2011 school year. We got quite a shock when South Lane school district, in which we live, told us that they have denied his access.” This parent’s experience shows that Oregon has a long way to go before virtual learning is accessible to all Oregon students. Please join with Cascade in support of making virtual education options available to all Oregon students.