Increasingly, Florida’s school districts are offering virtual courses and district leaders are talking about adapting to an environment where at least some learning is digital for nearly all their students. At the same time, Florida Virtual School, an institution that helped pioneer these shifts, is recruiting students for a new, physical campus at its Orlando Headquarters.
Some students taking classes with the state’s largest online learning provider will soon have a place to meet in-person with teachers and fellow students, where they’ll be able to work on projects and receive support.
Amy McGrath, the director of FLVS Campus, explains in a podcast interview that the Florida Virtual School has long tried to “keep up with what the kids’ needs are and to stay personalized.” After working on the virtual school’s in-house research and development for its Innovation Schoolhouse, she says the physical campus is growing out of its search for ways to better accommodate students at a time when even traditional learning is becoming “blended” to some degree.
Right now, it’s looking to sign up students who will enroll in ninth grade classes next school year.
From a policy wonk’s perspective, the new campus program will be structured and funded much the same as other Florida Virtual School offerings. It’s being launched with the help of a grant from Next Generation Learning Challenges, and while they’ll have teachers to guide them through their FLVS coursework, its students will be registered for home education (see more details here).
From a student’s perspective, as McGrath explains, FLVS Campus is offering something different. It’s intended to supplement online lessons with “opportunities to get your hands dirty and have some real-world applications.” Students’ projects, and the way they spend their time on the campus, will be tailored to their individual learning plans.
“It’s going to be very different from your traditional classroom,” she says. “You’re not going to come in and see the teacher in the front and students sitting down and listening. It’s going to be kids just all over the space, doing what makes sense for them at that moment in time.”
While Florida Virtual School always wants to position itself as the state of the art in virtual instruction, McGrath noted in a blog post announcing the effort that technology is ultimately just a means to an end. She wrote: “I think our angle is going to give us a head start in blowing up the traditional notion of school—and leverage all we know of personalized learning in order to produce students who are truly college and career ready.”