11.01.10 Online Schools Report Rapid Growth
The number of Wyoming students taking classes online--in schools and at home--is growing, local and state education officials report.
Currently, about 1,200 students across the state are full-time online students, according to Scott Bullock, distance education consultant for the Wyoming Department of education.
For example, Jackson Hole Connections Academy began in the summer of 2009. Principal Ben Kolb helped open Connections Academy schools in other states before opening one in Wyoming. “Online learning is growing across the county by 30 percent a year,” Kolb said. “It’s not going to go away.”
Students choose online learning for varied reasons, according to Natrona County School District No. 1 virtual coordinator Tanya Sisneros. In her district, Sisneros knows of 60 full-time online students from kindergarten through high school. In addition, 49 high school students in the county take part-time classes online for high school credit.
The reasons for taking online classes include have health issues that prevent students from regularly attending schools. Other issues like bullying and different learning styles lead some to online learning.
Some students seek courses not offered in their local schools. The Wyoming Virtual Academy and the Jackson Hole Connections Academy both offer hundreds of courses that may not otherwise be available to students, particularly those in rural areas. Students can begin foreign language study of their choice in grade school, for instance.
Liz Simpson, University of Wyoming Department of Special Education associate professor, has been named the first director of a center that will work to strengthen distance learning for all levels of education in Wyoming.
The Wyoming Center for Excellence and Innovation in Distance Learning and Technology was developed through Gov. Dave Freudenthal's task force that examined distance education, video conferencing and Internet-based communications across the state.
The group was assigned the task to find ways to integrate and enhance distance learning opportunities at all levels -- K-12, community college, UW, professional development, training and lifelong learning -- as well as determine how best to integrate the various video conferencing systems now supported by the state.
Click here to read more about Simpson and the new center.
The Wyoming does not have a state-led virtual school network. It does, however, offer a variety of full-time and supplemental online options through the Wyoming Switchboard Network (WSN). WSN coordinates the state's virtual learning programs. WSN supervises two Wyoming school districts and three virtual charters.
Wyoming does not have a virtual charter school. However five Wyoming school districts operate statewide, full-time online programs.
Public funding for a virtual-learning student remains in the resident district in which that student is enrolled (the student’s home district) and is based on the completion of the course objectives documented in the student’s virtual-learning plan.