A Game Changer

Take a look at what North Carolina Virtual Public School has done to the Education Game.

I was in a meeting recently when I heard a Chief Executive Officer of a major educational enterprise reference online and blended learning as a game changer. She was sharing a conversation that she had recently with an NC elected official and how he called virtual learning a big game changer.  

All this talk about game changers made me think, “are there any other institutions with such a major game changer?”  Sometimes it’s all about timing.  At about the same time I heard my CEO talk about game changers, I watched the NCAA National Championship game.  I saw another game changer.  

I’m not a Tigers fan at all, however, indulge me just for a moment.  Let us take a quick look at Clemson Football.  Clemson, number two in the country after losing to Alabama in the only game that counts now.  However, even in losing the Tigers scored 40 points and had 550 total yards of offense (for the eleventh game in a row).  In the 1985 Independence Bowl, Clemson scored a mere 13 points and the last time the Clemson Tigers won the National Championship in 1982, they only scored 22 points.  What is the game changer?  Spread option offenses and incredibly athletic quarterbacks.  

So yes, I’m saying it.  North Carolina Virtual Public School is the athletic quarterback of modern public education.

In 2008 there were just over 17,000students enrolled in North Carolina Virtual Public School courses.  More recently, in 2015, over 55,000 enrollments and over 35,000 individual students.  And it’s not just that more kids are taking online and blended courses– They are learning.  They are succeeding.  They are matching or outpacing state averages for End Of Course Tests in Biology, English II, and Math I.  Online students at NCVPS are exceeding national averages in Advanced Placement tests.  And all of this is happening beginning in grade 6 and stretching through grade 12.  

Students are exposed to teaching and learning in ways that once may have never seemed even possible.  They are being allowed to “see” things around the world virtually that would never happen before virtual education.  All the while, students are collaborating with others that are across town, across the state, across the country, and sometimes across the planet.  The global understanding and awareness that NCVPS students get are invaluable. 

And it’s not just what they are learning, it’s how and where.  In the middle of a blizzard, NCVPS students are in class.  Olympic hopeful, in class after practice.  Temporarily living outside of the US, still taking classes.  This game is being changed dramatically.  

The statistics and raw numbers are not the entire story.  It only illustrates one of the many chapters in the North Carolina Virtual Public School story.   This is truly a case where the kids are successful and thriving in a new and ever-changing environment.  And they like it.  Listen to what some of these students have said about NCVPS:

“I gained so much from your class. English is one of my weaker subjects, and it hadn’t ever really been my favorite, but your class and your thoughtful feedback throughout changed that for me. Last spring was so enjoyable, and I now look forward to working on English because I can appreciate the literature and meanings behind it. Even if you don’t wish to write a recommendation, I want to say thank you for helping me discover how enjoyable English is. Your class changed my perspective and had a huge impact on me.”

The students aren’t the only ones singing the praises of NCVPS.  Parents are realizing it is a game changer as well.  They are excited about the opportunities, both blended and online,  that North Carolina Virtual offers.  Hear what one parent writes:

“My kids have had some truly lousy online course experiences, and I was very skeptical that an online course could actually be “good.” But Tess had a fantastic experience in your Earth and Environmental class, and she learned so much! She was extremely positive about the class – mostly because YOU were so positive and engaged with your students!! She loved the individual attention that you gave to each student, and she appreciated your “shout-outs” when someone tried extra-hard on an assignment. Honestly, this was not a course that Tess was looking forward to, and it was not subject matter that she thought would be interesting. But her attitude changed once the class started, because you made the class interesting and you worked so hard to engage your students!”

For students and their parents, North Carolina Virtual School is an absolute game changer.  But it is for the educators that are involved in online and blended learning as well.  Teachers who have spent most of their careers in face-to-face environments tap into tools, skills, and techniques that they would never have used in their brick-and-mortar schools.  

“I was exposed to new ideas about technology and pedagogy, but was amazed at how much better I became at communication with students and parents through this experience,” writes one NCVPS teacher.

Another NCVPS teacher explains, “I have an exceptional student in Spanish 2 this semester. She is 15 and is an elite gymnast (the highest level). She’s been training in Texas off and on this semester, and I’ve had to work with her to make sure that she gets everything done. She’s an exceptional student that works hard “inside” the class and outside. She has to take all online classes because she trains 45 hours in the gym every week. She does all of this while maintaining a very high average! As if that’s not celebration enough, she just found out that she made the U.S. National Gymnastics Team (1 of 10 in the U.S.)! She’ll be traveling to Italy in two weeks for two weeks to compete, then on to the Pan American Championship in Canada. If she performs well, she could be chosen as part of the six-person team to compete at the World Championship. It’s stories like these that truly showcase how wonderful online learning can be in the lives of (young) people!” 

A game changer, for everyone involved, North Carolina Virtual Public School is a game changer.  Quite frankly, NCVPS is the athletic quarterback changing how the game is played.  This game–public education–is changing, and it’s never changing back.  

Change is good, the only constant is change, and you can keep the change, all cliches.  But like a new offense in a football game, get with the change or get left behind.

–James Bell, NCVPS Professional Learning Coordinator