Illustrating the "Virtual" in Virtual Schooling: Challenges and Strategies for Creating Real Tools to Prepare Virtual Teachers

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Internet and Higher Education

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Distance education, Virtual schools, Virtual schooling, Online courses, Instructional technology tools, Virtual teachers, Teacher education programs


Education | Educational Technology | Elementary Education | Online and Distance Education | Secondary Education | Teacher Education and Professional Development


Virtual schooling, or the practice of offering K-12 courses via distance technologies, has rapidly increased in popularity since its beginning in 1994. Although effective interaction with and support for students in these environments requires a unique set of skills and experiences, teacher education programs currently place very little emphasis on teaching and facilitation competencies for virtual school education. This article reports on a federally-funded project to develop a model preparation program for virtual educators. After a brief review of project goals (identifying and building competencies, developing tools to support virtual teacher education, and scaffolding a national community of virtual school practice), the description focuses on the development and formative evaluation procedures and findings with a tool designed to give preservice students in introductory teacher education classes foundation concepts in effective virtual schooling practices. Also included are implications of evaluation findings and recommendations for further research and development.