Importing K-12 Online Learning into Canada
Claudine Townley – Florida Virtual School
Florida Virtual School (FLVS®) is an established leader in developing and providing virtual Kindergarten–12th grade education solutions to students across the globe. A nationally recognized e-learning model, FLVS was founded in 1997 and was the country’s first statewide Internet-based public high school. In 2000, the Florida Legislature established FLVS as an independent educational entity with a gubernatorial-appointed board.
A fully accredited, award-winning program, FLVS provides virtual solutions to all 67 Florida school districts, 50 states, and 57 countries. FLVS serves Kindergarten–12 public, private, charter and home school students and offers more than 110 online courses, including core academics, Learning Recovery®, electives, world languages, honors and Advanced Placement®. The core course curriculum is approved by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and all courses meet or exceed Florida Sunshine State and National Standards. Within the state of Florida, FLVS is funded only when a student successfully completes a course, and all courses are provided without a cost to the student.
Recognized as a national leader and pioneer for quality online learning and education reforms, FLVS sets itself apart from other schools and online providers through its instructional model and course content. FLVS delivers flexibility and personalized instruction to all FLVS students and is able to present a variety of custom solutions for schools and districts to meet students’ needs. Courses feature integrated game-based content and mobile applications and include learning experiences away from the computer as well as online. Students exercise 21st century skills as they collaborate with one another and communicate with teachers regularly via phone, email, online chats, instant messaging, discussion forums, webcams, texting, and social networking sites.
All FLVS instructors are certified in the subject matter they teach. Instructors work one-on-one to personalize each student’s learning experience. Although instructors’ office times vary, they are accessible to students and parents daily from 8 am to 8 pm, seven days a week. Instructors receive ongoing training and professional development by the country’s online learning experts. FLVS’s instructional staff includes more than 125 National Board Certified teachers.
Florida Virtual Global Services was also created in the 2000 Florida state legislative session, answering a call for a separate division within Florida Virtual School to serve needs outside of Florida. As a not-for-profit institution now known as FLVS Global, these revenues are reinvested in FLVS, earmarked for research and development, in order to maintain the highest quality courses and products available to benefit students everywhere. FLVS Global maintains clients in many different states and countries around the world, including Canada. Within Canada specifically, there has been a fair amount of interest in FLVS products and services over the last ten years, but not much of the interest has actually converted to sales.
Although much of the international business for FLVS Global has centered on tuition, Canada has enroled fewer than ten students over the past six years in Global School, FLVS’s tuition school for students outside of Florida. All of the students enroled from Canada have come from either private schools (e.g., St. Mildred’s Lightbourn and Southridge) or have been homeschooled students.
FLVS’s work in Canada has been primarily in two areas—content sales and professional development. Although the number of sales has not been high, the relationships have been positive and rewarding. Most of the sales have been to distance learning groups and consortia. Back in 2007, BCEd Online purchased FLVS’s Teaching Online 101 professional development course. This was one of FLVS’s first Canadian sales. Most recently, FLVS Global has worked with Alberta Distance Learning Centre, in partnership with Pearson Canada, on a purchase of three high school Spanish courses. However, Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre in Winnipeg has, by far, been FLVS’s biggest Canadian customer. Manitoba has purchased nine courses over the past three years for use in their own learning management system. The Manitoba team also traveled to Orlando to the FLVS headquarters to attend Virtual Leadership Training, a two-day intensive workshop on best practices in setting up and maintaining a virtual or blended program. The Conseil Des Escoles Fransaskoises also attended Virtual Leadership Training and purchased a follow up webinar for their school. Finally, Consortium d’apprentissage virtuel de langue française de l’Ontario also purchased a professional development training webinar.
In summary, FLVS’s experiences with Canada may seem somewhat limited, but all of the interactions have been positive, and there has been a great working relationship for more than a decade. As far back as May of 2000, FLVS received the Canadian Association for Distance Education (CADE) Award of Excellence; this was the first time a CADE award was presented to an organization outside of Canada. Most recently, FLVS has been partnering with the Calgary-based eDynamic Learning to bring more electives and more choices to students both inside and outside of Florida. FLVS is looking forward to continued partnerships with the various schools, consortia, education groups, and businesses within Canada in order to share the FLVS vision of transforming education worldwide—one student at a time.
 In 2007, CADE joined with the Association for Media and Technology in Education in Canada (AMTEC) to form the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE).