The West Virginia Virtual School
By Barbara Fish

April 22, 2005

George Lucas of Star Wars fame recently visited West Virginia and got a glimpse of the future. A video crew from the George Lucas Foundation, based out of California, came to the Mountain State to feature our school system in a documentary about online learning  

With its release this month, the documentary has brought to national attention what the West Virginia Board of Education has recognized for many years … online learning is tomorrow’s teaching.  

The West Virginia Virtual School (WVVS) program began with three students in the fall of 2000. The growth of the program has been monumental with approximately 2900 students taking a Virtual School course in the past four years. Currently, 1225 students are enrolled in online courses through WVVS. These students are from 97 schools in 41 counties.  

WVVS provides opportunities for rural and small school students to participate in courses they couldn’t otherwise receive. However, larger, urban schools also are taking advantage of the course offerings to get classes that they can’t take because of scheduling conflicts.  

Through the partnerships with the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Florida Virtual School, West Virginia educators created the procedures for the WVVS to address the needs of students.  

WVVS operates a middle school Spanish program in which students acquire a high school credit for Spanish I after two years of study in the 7th and 8th grade. This program has become nationally recognized and is being studied by other states wishing to implement a comprehensive middle school foreign language program.  

In addition, 16 different Advanced Placement courses are delivered online and 74 other courses such as math, literature and science are also offered via the Virtual School program.  

It is evident that the Virtual School program is working in West Virginia. Dr. Peggy Miller works for the Morgan County school system. She says WVVS has been a “godsend” for students in rural Paw Paw High School, allowing them the opportunity to take classes like macroeconomics. At George Washington High School in Charleston, Guidance Counselor Kackie Eller says WVVS has helped develop students’ self-discipline skills and brought the honor code to the forefront of students’ minds.  

As a member of the Board of Education, I understand that online courses can never replace a classroom teacher. However, education in the future will include some form of blended learning … online and in the classroom. I am confident that West Virginia is ready for the technological journey. As Yoda would say, "On the path to online learning, West Virginia well on its way it is."  

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