Florida Virtual School

Proyectos y programas

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Florida Virtual School Julie Young*

FLVS History

During the 1996 school year, Orange County, Florida, piloted a “Web School” with five online courses. The Florida Department of Education (DOE) acted as the catalyst in initially encouraging a partnership between Orange and Alachua Counties. In November 1996, the DOE provided the two districts with a $200,000 “Break the Mold” school grant to develop the Florida High School (FHS) project. Following an intensive six-month period of planning and development, FHS officially launched with seven staff members in August of 1997. 

Since that time, the school has had two name changes, Florida Online High School, in 2000, andFlorida Virtual School®, in 2001.  Following the original grant, FLVS® operated from a recurring line-item in Florida’s legislative budget until the school year 2003-04, when FLVS became fully funded via the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP).  From the $200,000 grant in 1996, FLVS is affiliated with all 67 Florida school districts, has increased the staff from 6 to more than 1400 during fiscal year 2011, and has become the model for distance learning initiatives across the globe. The graph below shows the exponential growth FLVS enrollments have experienced over the last eight years. For the 2010-2011 school year, students completed 259,928 half-credits.


Tabla 1. Registros de FLVS a junio 30, 2011
Los registros se miden como inscripciones de medio crédito con base en egresos
de estudiantes típicos en Florida Virtual School en periodos de 12 meses.

In the 2003-04 school year, FLVS initiated partnerships with Florida school districts in order to increase the capacity of students who could be served online through an in-state franchise program.  The in-state franchise program operates as an extension of FLVS.  They use all of the FLVS systems, and the franchise staff is trained in FLVS policies and procedures.

This continual growth pattern in student enrollments directly with FLVS and with the in-state franchises is evidence of both the program’s success in providing an educational choice to students and the need for e-learning.

Other Historical Highlights

  • Earned NCAA approval of courses, 2000
  • Earned CITA/SACS accreditation, 2001
  • Awarded SEIR-TEC Patterns of Promise Award for Instructional Technology, 1999
  • Awarded Canadian Association for Distance Education (CADE) Award of Excellence: Learner-Centered IT, 2000
  • Awarded USDLA Excellence in Distance Learning Programming K-12, 2000
  • Awarded USDLA Most Outstanding Achievement by an Individual in K-12 Education to Julie Young, 2000
  • Awarded USDLA Excellence in Distance Learning Programming K-12, 2002
  • Swept the USDLA K-12 awards in every category in 2003
  • Named as one of Business Week’s “Web Smart 50”
  • One of the top three finalists for the EdNet HERO Award, 2004
  • Awarded ITFlorida Excellence in IT Leadership for Central Florida, 2004
  • Awarded USDLA 21st Century Best Practices Award, 2005
  • Awarded EdNet’s Pioneer Award, 2006
  • Awarded EdNet’s Impact Award, 2007
  • Awarded USDLA 21st Century Best Practices in Distance Learning, 2007
  • Awarded Enhanced Government, 2008
  • Awarded CODIE, 2009, 2010
  • Awarded USDLA Best Practices, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010
  • Awarded Sterling Council Storyboard Competition 2011
  • Award e-Learning 100, 2011
  • Award Bright Ideas Award 2011
  • Award  Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education 2011
  • Award Converge Yearbook 2011 Top 50 Innovators 2011
  • Award iNACOL Outstanding Individual Contributor 2011

FLVS now delivers more than 130 courses including middle school, both regular and honors high school courses and, over Advanced Placement courses. 

All FLVS instructors are certified teachers in the state of Florida.  In addition, 120 FLVS instructors now hold National Board Certification as well.  From the original staff of seven, FLVS has grown considerably.  The faculty consists of full-time instructors as well as adjuncts.  The following chart shows the number of budgeted positions at FLVS during the last few school years.

 

Full time Teachers

Adjunct Teachers

Support Staff

TOTAL STAFF

may 2004

85.00

77.00

45.00

207.00

may 2005

119.00

98.00

82.00

299.00

may 2006

178.00

103.00

98.00

379.00

may 2007

301.00

175.00

139.00

615.00

may 2008

423.74

208.33

188.76

820.83

may 2009

763.00

40.00

282.00

1,085.00

may 2010

998.74

75.00

338.00

1,411.74

may 2011

1028.00

98.00

342.00

1468.00

Educational Philosophy

Florida Virtual School’s educational philosophy can succinctly be summed up in our motto, “any time, any place, any path, any pace.”  We strive to provide rich educational opportunities for students that offer them the flexibility on how and when they work with the curriculum.  Students are encouraged to make regular progress on the course, but are not mandated to a timeline or specific pace schedule.  Courses are also developed so there aren’t stringent technology requirements and students do not need to be in a set location as they work.

FLVS values a “high touch” approach, with instructors having regular contact with both students and parents/guardians.  Instructors realize the value of making a connection with families and its impact on students’ motivation and success in their course.  Building these one-on-one relationships between instructors and students is often a higher degree of contact than students may receive in traditional schools.   This unique opportunity is often cited as a reason for student success.

To ensure a consistent vision, all employeesare required to attend professional development on the school’s core pedagogies.  Infused into the curriculum and instruction at FLVS, they include key concepts from theSchlechty Center’s Working on the Work, Quantum Learning Network, Prisoners of Time, 21st Century Skills and Literacy initiatives.  Together, these philosophies outline FLVS’ approach towards students and learning in the online environment.

Instructional Design

When designing courses at FLVS several prominent theories are espoused into the process.  Each lesson follows Robert Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, which addresses conditions in which optimal learning take place.  Each of the nine instructional events correlates with an internal mental process to facilitate learning.

Another process that is followed is Quantum Learning Network’s design frame.  Based on many years of research around effective delivery of content, curriculum is designed to increase student engagement, participation and mastery.  Various activities throughout the process connect the content with students’ experiences and promote confidence through celebration throughout the lessons.

FLVS also utilizes Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s Understanding by Design methodology for developing lessons.  It begins with identifying the desired results from a lesson through review of the standards, then determining the essential questions to guide the design.  Finally, clear alignment between the lesson’s objectives, content and assessments will ensure the student will be able to demonstrate mastery.

Technological Aspects

All FLVS courses are designed so that technology is not a hurdle for students.  Care is taken to ensure courses are accessible to students of all abilities, and adhere to national 508 Compliance guidelines.  Media is presented in alternate formats to ensure any of these items can do not prevent students from accessing content.  Alternate text is provided for audio, video and interactive multimedia assets.  Technology requirements are posted on the FLVS website (http://flvs.net) so students have a clear understanding of what is needed to progress through a course.

Courses are developed using HTML and can be accessed through a computer, tablet or mobile device.  We believe it is important to ensure access can be granted in a variety of ways and that a student’s lifestyle does not impede the ability to take our courses.   Assessments and collaboration opportunities take place through a learning management system (LMS), which also holds student grades and additional information and content from a course’s instructor.

Student Demographics

You will see from the chart below that the student population at Florida Virtual School is quite diverse, with 69% of the student base coming from traditional public schools. The flexibility of online education meets the needs of a variety of students including those who wish to move ahead, those who need more time in a particular subject, or need to take classes at times of day that is most convenient for their extra-curricular activity schedules.


Tabla 2.

Trends and Success Factors

Florida Virtual School continually tracks trends in learning management systems and industry technology and how students want to learn.  For example, mobility is no longer a luxury, it’s a lifestyle.  Our motto of any time, any place, any path, and pace means that we have to continually evolve as a learning organization to meet the needs of our customers – the students.  With the increasing number of students who use smart phones and other mobile devices, FLVS launched the meStudyingsuite of mobile applications downloadable on a number of different operating systems.  The suite includes studying apps for Algebra 1, Reading for College Success, AP® Art History, English Literature and Composition, AP® Microeconomics, AP® Psychology and Frog Dissection.

In reviewing the online activity of our students and listening to their voice, we see that many are on line late afternoon and well into the evening and late evening hours.  To better serve those students and the faculty supporting them, we implemented a 24X7X365 client services model.  Our students and teachers work flexible hours and need support in a number of areas.  Having such support for our teachers directly impacts students when attempting to work on assignments and in the system.

A brand new Decision Support Services team was recently created and all reporting has been upgraded to run off a server.  New processes are also in place whereby ongoing reports are generated and provided to all departments in the organization.  These reports are then used to make strategic decisions for instruction, growth, and organizational changes.  

Our newly-designed Admissions and Registration system (A&R) has had a tremendous and positive impact on our students.  We want to capture our students’wants and needs in every way.  The creation of this new system provided a user-friendly mechanism to sign up for courses.  It is now fun and informative.   With the exception of our Learning Management System (LMS), the A&R system was built from the ground up to meet the needs of our specific student group and is the largest system FLVS has ever undertaken.  It was designed architecturally to meet the needs millions of student registration.  The IT team also insisted that the system be designed with a strategic mobile component to allow our student base to use their smart phones and tablets to register for their courses from any location.  We believe it is no longer acceptable to have such systems work just on a desk-top.

At Florida Virtual School, personalized service is still of the utmost importance and the highest priority in student learning.  Students learn at their own pace so having an individualized learning plan for each student allows them the time they need to master the subject at hand.  Another unique success factor for Florida Virtual School is the personal relationship built between teacher, student and parents.  Everyone is involved in the student’s learning experience and that relationship makes Florida Virtual School stand out among its competition.