FLVS Offers Training, Courses and Community

May 1, 2020: Volume 27, Number 9

Florida Virtual School, an accredited, public, elearning school serving students in grades K-12 online in Florida and globally, is offering help during the COVID-19 pandemic in the form of free courses, teacher training and an online community.

Chief operations officer Sam Verghese told EER that FLVS sees its mission now, as it has been, to deliver high-quality, technology-based education that provides knowledge and skills to students for their future success. FLVS remains true to its mission, even if how it plays out has shifted and expanded some amid COVID-19, Verghese said. FLVS served 215,505 students in 2018-2019.

Teacher Training

As COVID-19 rose to prominence, FLVS on March 12 accelerated its virtual teacher training to help brick-and-mortar educators learn to work in an online environment by offering a six-hour, self-guided course available online with FLVS live support. More than 3,400 teachers accessed the course in the weeks following its availability.

Verghese said there are some differences between in-person and remote education with a major one being the traditional format focuses on one classroom with 30 students while online there are 30 classrooms with one student. There is less emphasis on start-and-stop times, broad expected outcomes and tests and grades with the move to remote learning. Online education offers the learner more freedom to define the process and the path to the finish line, he said.

Online education can be a good fit when done right, offering accessibility at all time and individualized learning, said Verghese. He expects this period will lead to expanded online learning, but acknowledged some parents are experiencing a difficult time and it is hard to see the end result in the midst of the experience. “If we put the needs of the students first, we will get where we need to be,” he said.

Among the examples of resources on the rise in new learning environments, Verghese cited the student engagement platform Nearpod (Fort Lauderdale, FL) with its ready-to-use lessons, the education platform featuring animation for learning BrainPOP (New York) and Shmoop (Los Altos, CA), provider of test prep and digital curriculum.

Online Learning Community

FLVS on March 27 launched a new Online Learning Community to support the online learning experience for online K-12 educators, including administrators who wish to start or enhance an online program and teachers new to teaching online, and for parents whose children take online courses. It addresses best practices and training with live workshops and webinars and free digital resources that include videos and articles. By early April, there were 6,000 unique participants.

Verghese said the goal was to provide tools and resources and to share from teachers in the FLVS system best practices and content—content that is age-appropriate, aligned to standards and available in a safe place for students to explore. With many educators having fears about a new way of working, the community can offer support and guidance.

Verghese said advancements in classroom technology, like 1:1 initiatives, have made educators more comfortable in the online environment. Most Florida districts have a learning management system and having worked with an LMS is another benefit for teachers. FLVS has a proprietary LMS and also can upload free course content to other systems, including Blackboard, Canvas, Brightspace, Moodle and Schoology.

Free Digital Courses

FLVS on March 30 began providing free access through June 30 to 100 K-12 courses, including for core subjects, electives, Advanced Placement and career and technical education. Verghese said FLVS is offering a broad range of courses, aligned to Florida standards and taught by certified teachers with 1:1 support, to help maintain continuity of learning.

The interest in continuity of learning extends beyond Florida. The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development in March signed a $525,000 contract to make FLVS courses available through the Alaska Virtual School. More than 150 students from seven school districts signed up for courses following the announcement. Additionally, FLVS plans to instruct Alaskan educators on how to lead online courses and will license its digital curriculum for use by the Alaska Virtual School.

Verghese said it is hard to forecast what education will be occurring this summer, but he expects FLVS to be busy as usual providing courses for students seeking acceleration, remediation and to address scheduling problems.



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