Governor Bob McDonnell signed SB738 and HB1388 at Brookville High School on Wednesday, April 7, 2010. This legislation develops the criteria for virtual school programs in Virginia. Pictured seated (L to R): Delegate Ben Cline; Senator Steve Newman, bill patron in the Virginia Senate; Governor Bob McDonnell; Delegate Richard “Dickie” Bell, bill patron in the House of Delegates. WHRO’s Bert Schmidt is shown standing, second from the right. Photo credit: Governor of Virginia’s photographer
by Bert Schmidt, President and CEO of WHRO, the Hampton Roads region’s public broadcasting station (Editorial published in the Daily Press and reprinted here with permission)
WHRO, the region’s public broadcasting station, applauds Gov. Bob McDonnell’s vision for online learning in Virginia. Online learning offers students the opportunity to take credit and non-credit courses from remote sites that are bound neither by time nor physical location. No matter where the student is — no matter what the time of day or night — course material is at the ready with the click of a computer mouse.
The governor’s initiatives will ensure that homebound students, adult or working learners, all have access to the richness of a full education through online learning.
Since WHRO’s founding nearly 50 years ago to support education through instructional television programs, we have remained a leader in embracing new technologies to enhance the educational experience for Hampton Roads students and teachers — and importantly, to do so in a manner that is cost-effective, highly efficient and serves the interest of our owners: 18 public school divisions throughout Hampton Roads.
Working in collaboration with our owner-school systems, and with their financial support, WHRO has spent the last several years developing core-curriculum online student courses.
By 2009, we had completed eight full-year online courses, including English 9, 10, 11 and 12; Algebra 1; financial literacy; earth science and Virginia/U.S. Government. In the summer of 2010, we’ll add Algebra II/Trigonometry, geometry, biology and U.S. History.
All of these courses are instructor-led, text-book independent, media-rich and cover all applicable SOLs. They arrive at the individual school systems ready to use as-is, without alteration.
The school division may choose to add local content, or even change the order in which lessons are presented — all accomplished quickly and easily. The courses can also be used to support traditional classroom instruction in a “blended” environment. For example, specific portions of a course can be assigned to specific students who may require a bit more help to keep from falling behind. At the other end of the spectrum, additional lessons can be assigned to high-performing students to allow for further exploration.
The savings to our 18 owner-school divisions is substantial, as it is far more cost-efficient for us to create a specific course, for instance Algebra I, that each school system can use, than it is for 18 school divisions to independently develop an Algebra I course.
WHRO not only saves the schools money through the creation and distribution of regular online core curriculum courses, we also host and operate the Virginia Virtual Advanced Placement School through an agreement with the commonwealth. Through this service, now in its fourth year, nearly 3,500 students from across Virginia completed one or more of the nearly 40 advanced placement and world language courses available. We’ve also launched our own digital media distribution system, Video Classroom, which seamlessly incorporates the PBS Digital Learning Library, making tens of thousands of video clips readily available to help teachers augment their classroom activities, saving them hours of time.
Virginia’s students are the future leaders of the commonwealth and the country, who deserve nothing less than the most advanced education possible. Because WHRO is a nonprofit organization, every dollar we save for the schools through the innovative application of technology is a dollar that can be reinvested in those schools.
In today’s troubled economy, with the challenges facing Gov. Bob McDonnell as he strives to reconcile Virginia’s needs with its resources, the importance of saving these funds for our public schools cannot be overstated.