Study Finds Flaws in Virtual Education

Marion Herbert's picture
Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A new study is sounding alarms at the quick expansion of virtual education programs in states like Florida, saying for-profit companies are pushing states to offer full-time virtual instruction paid for by state tax dollars with little research on the quality of these programs.

The study, written by two professors at the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and released Tuesday, highlights a number of emerging problems with the growth of online learning.

The study raises questions about the quality of virtual education, such as the lack of supervision, as well as the financial motivations of for-profit companies that have pushed state legislatures to expand virtual instruction.

"Private corporations, most of which are for-profit, have recognized a huge potential market in virtual schooling," wrote the study's authors, who urge states to more closely examine how much they pay for virtual instruction.

Florida has long been at the forefront of virtual education. There is the state-backed Florida Virtual School, which offers full-time and part-time virtual classes paid for by taxpayer dollars and each school district in the state is required to offer virtual classes, either through its own program, the Florida Virtual School, or private companies.

And this year, a new state law requires all public high school students to take an online course prior to graduation as well as allow charter schools to offer full-time "virtual" classes.

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