The Demand for Virtual Learning

Economics is a funny thing. If someone wants to buy something badly enough, or if there is enough demand for it, the market will find a way to supply it one way or another—often without regard for details like quality.
Alabama does not have a virtual high school, or a full-fledged online version of a public school allowing students to enroll from home to complete school. This may not seem like a big problem, but for some students it can make a real difference in their education.
Recently, WSFA in Montgomery ran this story about online diploma mills selling unaccredited high school diplomas to unsuspecting students. A virtual public school in Alabama could prevent scams like this, and provide quality control for online education in Alabama.
Virtual schools are certainly not for everyone. But, virtual schools and a wide variety of online class options can provide important paths to success for students without other options. For some students, virtual schools or classes can be the difference between attending or dropping out. For others, it may allow him or her to move at the right pace to work through a challenging curriculum necessary for competing in the global economy.
Alabama has a renowned virtual course program, ACCESS, that allows students to take classes via videoconferencing and the Internet that they might not otherwise be able to take. All students are required to take at least once class via ACCESS in order to graduate. ACCESS helps level the playing field across schools with different resources, especially for rural students. Other states have similar programs, like the Georgia Virtual School and the Louisiana Virtual School, both created through their state departments of education. Other states have virtual degree-granting schools (not just course programs), like the Florida Virtual School.
However, in the ever-changing world of technology and education, these programs will have to stay up-to-date to stay relevant. In a short amount of time, students and parents will be accustomed to newer technology and will start demanding more and better virtual learning options.

How will Alabama meet this demand? What will the future of Alabama’s digital learning environment look like? These are questions worth asking.

To learn more about virtual classes and the wider world of “digital learning” visit the Digital Learning page in A+’s policy library page on it.