We continue our From the Field series today with a feature video interview with David Hooser, president of US-based Franklin Virtual High School (FVHS).
The range and breadth of online high school programmes has expanded tremendously over the past decade, with a corresponding increase in enrolment in many markets.
In the US, for example, public online schools registered more than a million students in 2013/14. All told, the total number of students enrolled in online schools, both public and private, represented about 16% of total K-12 enrolment in America in that same year.
There are a number of factors underlying this growth. First, there is a growing body of research indicating that learning outcomes in online programmes are equivalent to or better than those for more traditional delivery modes.
Second, expanding access to technology around the world – both in schools and in terms of mainstream adoption of online and mobile technologies – in turn enables greater participation in digital learning.
Finally, the most effective cases for using online high school programmes are becoming better understood. In some cases, online learning plays a part in expanding student choice and access, for example in schools where certain courses would otherwise not be available. For other students – such as elite athletes or those engaged in film or television production or the performing arts – online learning is the most effective way to continue their studies amidst demanding travel, training, and performance schedules.
Other students may pursue online studies if they are struggling with a range of learning or personal challenges, including medical or social issues, or if they simply need some additional support in one or more subjects.
Online high school programmes fill a particular niche in international education as well, particularly given the significant expansion of demand for overseas secondary school studies in recent years.
In the first segment of our feature interview below, David Hooser of Franklin Virtual High School (FVHS) makes the point that online studies are not a replacement for face-to-face instruction as such; rather, they are a complement to more traditional delivery modes for international students. “[Online high school] is more of a supplement to what agents currently offer,” he says. “It can be used to help prepare kids that are about to go on an academic year programme abroad, or to help them during the programme [overseas], or to continue the educational experience after they return home.”
As Mr Hooser points out, Franklin is expanding its international market through a network of partners and agents. As virtual high school is still a new programme option for many agents, students, and parents, Franklin is placing a lot of emphasis currently on agent support and orientation, through both face-to-face training and webinars.
Part of that training is concerned with orienting agents and students to the flexibility and immediacy of online learning. In sharp contrast to a more conventional study abroad experience, where students may plan to enter a programmes months (or even a year) later, students can begin an online high school programme immediately and pursue their virtual studies on a flexible schedule.
As Mr Hooser notes in our second interview segment below, quality assurance is another key issue that online providers address in programme delivery through a combination of technological and staff oversights that ensure the academic integrity of its programmes.
In keeping with the earlier point regarding the complementary nature of online studies, Mr Hooser concludes our discussion by noting that Franklin is actively partnering with bricks-and-mortar providers abroad, including high schools, language schools, and sports programmes. Those local partners use technology from FVHS to incorporate American high school courses into their ongoing programmes.
“We are launching in China; we are launching very aggressively with our partner Student Management Group in Vietnam,” he adds. “While the interest [in virtual high school] has been worldwide, the early adopters have certainly been in Asia.”