OPPAGA text logo with graphic of FL historic capitol
OPPAGA text logo with graphic of FL historic capitol

Education System

Virtual Education

What is the purpose of the program?

The purpose of the program is to make quality virtual instruction available to students using online and distance learning technology in the nontraditional classroom. Virtual instruction programs provide an interactive learning environment created through technology in which students are separated from their teachers by time or space, or both.

How do district virtual education programs work?

Section 1002.45, Florida Statutes, establishes district virtual instruction programs. Each district must offer:
  • full-time or part-time virtual instruction for students in grades K-12; and
  • a full-time or part-time virtual instruction program for students enrolled in dropout prevention and academic intervention programs, Department of Juvenile Justice programs, core-curricula courses to meet class size requirements, or Florida College System institutions offering a school district virtual instruction program.
To provide the program, districts may contract with the Florida Virtual School (FLVS), establish a Florida Virtual School franchise, contract with a provider approved by the Florida Department of Education (qualifications are listed in s. 1002.45(2), Florida Statutes), or enter into an agreement with another school district or with a virtual charter school. Districts that have a franchise with the FLVS have their own virtual school and deliver FLVS online courses to students within their districts. Students also have the option of taking online courses across district lines, and courses must be available during the normal school day.  District-operated programs receive a school grade, and providers receive a statewide school grade or a school improvement rating, as applicable.

What is the Florida Virtual School?

The Florida Virtual School (FLVS) was established in 1997 and provides online education for grades K-12. The FLVS includes a full-time and a part-time option (Florida Virtual School Flex). The full-time option awards a high school diploma. Public school students who are enrolled in the FLVS full time must take all required statewide assessments, including any state-mandated end-of-course exams, and are required to take state assessments within the school district in which they live. The FLVS receives a school grade for students receiving full-time instruction.  Students in the part-time option enroll in courses to supplement their educational program, and move through their coursework at a pace that suits their learning ability.
For both full- and part-time options, certified teachers communicate with students and parents on a regular basis through a variety of means, such as phone, email, text, and live lessons.
The FLVS has a school comparison matrix on its website that shows the options it offers.

What are virtual charter schools?

Section 1002.33, Florida Statutes, authorizes virtual charter schools to provide full-time online instruction to eligible K-12 students.  To provide this instruction, a virtual charter school must contract with a Florida Department of Education approved provider of virtual instructional services.

What courses are offered through virtual education?

The Florida Virtual School offers more than 190 courses, including Advanced Placement (AP) courses. The curriculum for district virtual instructional programs depends on how the program is offered; however, it must align to state standards. The department maintains the Florida Online Course Catalog, which lists available digital learning courses offered by a DOE approved provider and the FLVS.

What are the benefits of virtual education?

There are several benefits of virtual education, some of which include
  • providing advanced curriculum such as AP courses to students in schools where courses would otherwise not be available;
  • assisting students who have medical issues, or are engaged in time-consuming activities such as arts or sports, as well as at-risk students; and
  • assisting with credit recovery, which helps students graduate on time.
In addition, virtual education can help relieve classroom overcrowding.  Section 1003.03, Florida Statutes, requires that district school boards consider adopting policies to encourage students to take courses from the Florida Virtual School and other virtual instruction options to meet the constitutional class size amendment (GPS contains more information on class size reduction).

Are there eligibility requirements for students to participate in the program?

All students, including home education and private school students, are eligible to participate in all virtual instruction programs available in the state.
The department publishes a public virtual education options chart that lists program types and who those programs serve.

Are there any student requirements regarding virtual education?

Section 1003.4282, Florida Statutes, requires all high school students to complete at least one online course to graduate. This requirement can be met through a course offered by the FLVS, a district virtual education program, a high school, or an online dual enrollment course. It also can be met by either completing a course in which a student earns a nationally recognized industry certification in information technology identified on the Career and Professional Education Industry Certification Funding List, or by passing the information technology certification examination without enrolling in or completing the corresponding course or courses.

Who is responsible for providing students in the program with computers and Internet access?

District Virtual Instruction Programs. Districts are responsible for providing each full-time student who qualifies for free or reduced-price school lunch and participates in a virtual instruction program with computer systems and access to or reimbursement for Internet services if none are available at home.
Florida Virtual School. Students at the FLVS are responsible for providing their own computers and Internet connection if they are accessing their courses from home.  Students accessing courses from school are able to use school computers and connect to the Internet at their schools.

How much does it cost parents to enroll their child in a virtual education program?

Virtual education programs are available at no charge to all Florida students.  FLVS courses are free to all Florida students and are available to public, private, and home education students.  Non-Florida students can take FLVS courses on a tuition basis through the FLVS Global School.

How are these activities funded?

Students enrolled in programs and courses offered by district virtual schools, virtual charters and the FLVS are funded through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP). Funding is based on successful completions rather than enrollment and attendance.

Updates

The coronavirus (COVID-19) had a direct impact on virtual/distance education in the state, as students finished the last few months of the school year taking their classes online.  In response, to help students, parents, teachers, and school districts, the department and the FLVS provided related resources, including best practices for distance learning.

On June 11, 2020, the Governor released recommendations and strategies to safely open Florida’s education system.  One of the recommendations is that school districts fully open for the fall semester; however, the strategies acknowledge that reopening is a locally-driven decision.  Other recommendations include ways to reduce risk “at the front door,” redesigning the school day, and planning for extracurricular activities and events.

Where can I find related OPPAGA reports?

A complete list of related OPPAGA reports is available on our website.

Where can I get more information?

Other Reports

Technology Counts 2020: Coronavirus, Virtual Leaning & Beyond, Education Week, June 2020.
Florida Virtual School - Florida Education Finance Program - Attestation Examination, Auditor General Report No. 2020-198, April 2020.

Are Our K-12 Students Ready For Virtual or Online Learning at Home?, Speak Up, Project Tomorrow, March 2020.

Virtual School Policies, Education Commission of the States, December 2019
. 
Snapshot 2020, Digital Learning Cooperative, February 2020. 
Florida’s Public Virtual Education Programs Fact Sheet, Florida Department of Education, September 2019.
Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2019, National Education Policy Center, May 2019.
5 Blended-Learning Myths to Bust 2019, Christensen Institute, February 2019.
Using Online Learning for Credit Recovery: Getting Back on Track to Graduation, International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), September 2015.

Christensen Institute K-12 Publications

Websites of Interest

Blended and Online Learning Discovery of Florida
Blended Learning Universe

Digital Learning Collaborative
eSchool News
Florida Distance Learning Association
Florida Virtual School
Southern Regional Education Board, State and District Virtual Schools
U.S. Distance Learning Association


Performance measures and standards for the department may be found in its Long Range Program Plan.

What are the applicable statutes?

Whom do I contact for help?

Florida Department of Education, Office of K-12 School Choice, Virtual Education, email:  virtualeducation@fldoe.org

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