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Located just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, Rio Rancho Cyber Academy (RRCA) is an accredited, diploma-granting enriched virtual learning school that serves 180 students in grades 6-12, and is part of the Rio Rancho Public Schools. 49 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and 14 percent of students receive special education services.

When deciding whether online learning is right for your district, many questions arise, from deciding on the best curriculum to how to properly onboard families. How to train staff and how success will be measured must also be thought through. This web seminar, originally broadcast on March 13, 2013, joined together online learning experts from across the country to discuss how they were able to successfully introduce online curriculum in their districts.

Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis observes students and educators participating in the Open Campus PA program.

This past school year has been a little less hectic for busy juniors and seniors at Hempfield High School, thanks to a new, unique online course-sharing initiative.

The Hempfield School District is in a suburban-rural community outside Lancaster, Pa., and is one of three local districts that have implemented Open Campus PA, a program that unites its high school with the nearby Penn Manor and Manheim Township districts’ high schools. The goal is to share teachers and selected online courses, allowing participating students to take online classes on their own time.

To prevent high school students from dropping out, many districts nationwide are giving them the chance to recover credits via online classes, such as through Aventa Learning, Edgenuity, Pearson, and Plato, and seeing results.

“One of the biggest benefits is it provides schedule flexibility for the student,” says Gregg Levin, senior vice president of school solutions for K12, Inc., which offers online credit recovery courses through Aventa Learning. “This empowers them to learn with interactivity and multimedia, and more closely mirrors what they do outside the classroom.”

The first thing Bartow County Virtual Academy students learn is that online classes aren’t as easy as A, B, C. They’re also not for everyone.

Those also were early lessons for district administrators who opened the academy in January 2012 to 50 students—10 times as many as anticipated—in a former high school located an hour northwest of Atlanta. “A lot of kids thought it would be a piece of cake, but Aventa is very rigorous; you have to work,” says Jim Gottwald, executive director of secondary curriculum and student services for the Bartow County School System.

Students are doing less hand-raising and more clicking as online classes become increasingly popular in K12 instruction, both in combination with brick-and-mortar classrooms and in independent full-time virtual schools. “It’s exploding,” says Barbara Treacy, director of EdTech Leaders Online, a program of the nonprofit Education Development Center that works with educational organizations to develop online courses and professional development. “What we’re going to see in the future is a spectrum of blended courses, and the rare classroom that is 100 percent face-to-face.” 

Online courses are playing an increasing part in the efforts of district leaders to help at-risk high school students recover missing credits, whether or not they have dropped out and whether they take the online courses on-campus or off. Education companies, including K12, Pearson, Plato, Apex Learning, and AdvancePath Academics, have developed popular learning recovery programs. Gregg Levin, K12’s senior vice president of School Solutions, says the selfpaced format of online courses and the customized assessments go beyond merely recovering credit, and are designed to build self-esteem in

Collaborative virtual workspaces are one of the most effective new ways to assist in providing a high quality 21st century education. ePals’ latest platform, LEARN365, fosters social learning by providing a virtual space that is not bound by space or time for students and teachers to come together and exchange information. This web seminar, originally broadcast on November 14, 2012, addressed the importance of social and collaborative learning technology and Web 2.0 tools in providing a holistic, connected, social education for today’s students.

To implement blended learning effectively, administrators must gain a thorough understanding of the best tools, training, and processes necessary for teacher and student success. Thesys International offers custom curriculum designed to improve learning outcomes through blended learning. This web seminar, originally broadcast on October 25, 2012, featured Fairmont Preparatory Academy and the Pasadena (Calif.) Unified School District, which are in varying stages of implementing blended learning, with help from Thesys International.

In 2007, as part of their goal to meet technology literacy standards passed by the state of New York, administrators at the Longwood Central School District on Long Island were looking for a tool that would help them both integrate digital skills into core curriculum, and assess whether those skills were being taught effectively.