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Public high school goes virtual

Public high school goes virtual

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Forget bathroom passes. A proposal for a virtual public school in Virginia will have teens telecommuting to high school.

Online education for adults is old hat at this point, but a Virginia school district may bring virtual classrooms to high schoolers full-time, reports the Washington Post.

You read that right: no more school buses, paper-stuffed lockers, and bathroom passes. Instead, students would wake up in the morning and log-on to the computer to watch lectures, complete assignments, and even "attend" after-school clubs.

There are around 250,000 students enrolled in full-time virtual schools nationwide, reports the Post's Emma Brown and Michael Alison Chandler. But many of those schools are privately-run and even for-profit. What makes this Fairfax County, Virginia proposal different is that the public district itself would create curricula and run the courses themselves.

Under the proposal, teachers would be Fairfax employees working from home offices, corresponding by phone and e-mail, and occasionally meeting students face to face for orientation sessions and exams. Students and teachers would gather online for lessons about one-fifth of the time; otherwise, students would be able to design their schedules, working on assignments at their convenience.

But is this a good solution for students? Classroom education is certainly an important part of high school, but teens also need the chance to develop social skills and friendship. And there are still no published data on the success of online learning for teens.

However, if the idea becomes more widespread and is successful, it could bring higher-quality education to students living in areas with limited funding or failing schools around the world.

Fairfax County considers creating virtual high school [Washington Post]

Image: Joel Bombardier/Flickr

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Hannah Waters

Weekend Editor

Weekend Editor Hannah Waters is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. She writes a blog on the Scientific American network, and has written for Nature Medicine and The Scientist. She holds Biology and Latin degrees from Carleton College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure