Florida students now have a tool that allows them to shop around for different courses.
Legislation passed last year broke down several barriers in virtual education. It allowed students enrolled in one school district to take virtual courses offered in another. It also laid the groundwork for a course choice program that’s slated to come online during the 2015-16 school year, and it required the state Department of Education to create a directory to help students the navigate new options.
The online course catalog is now public, as Education Pam Stewart announced Friday in a memo to school districts, and can be found here.
“As Florida continues to lead the nation in school choice, we are excited for students to access the informational catalog and choose courses that will benefit their educational experience,” Stewart wrote in her memo.
Last year’s law change means a student enrolled in Osceola County can sign up for virtual courses offered in Orange or Okaloosa Counties, in addition to the statewide offerings of Florida Virtual School. The catalog combines the course offerings of Florida Virtual School, district virtual instruction programs and other digital courses developed by districts. If the Florida Approved Courses and Tests Initiative launches as expected, those new offerings will also be available in the catalog, saving students the need to navigate dozens of different provider websites.
So far, most of the courses districts have added to the catalog are either built around the Florida Virtual School curriculum or offered by state-approved virtual education providers like K12 and Edgenuity.
Most districts have yet to add their courses to the catalog, but they have a financial incentive to do so. If students successfully complete a virtual education course, the district that offered the course can receive the associated funding, regardless of where students are enrolled for their remaining courses. So if the Osceola County student takes six courses at a traditional campus and completes a seventh through Orange’s virtual program, the two districts would split the funding proportionally.
The catalog also includes a feedback system that allows students to rate their courses with up to five stars, giving districts and other providers another way to compete for students and the funding that can follow them into online courses.