The Virginia Department of Education’s existing online learning system, Virtual Virginia, underwent a dramatic expansion to allow every teacher in the Commonwealth to host virtual classes while schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. These resources include a platform that enables all Virginia public school teachers to share lessons and activities with their students through June 30.
“While there is no perfect substitute for in-person classroom instruction, this is an unprecedented public health crisis and we must do everything we can to ensure all children have equitable learning opportunities,” said Gov. Ralph Northam said when announcing the expansion. “I want to thank our educators, school administrators, and superintendents for their extraordinary efforts to keep students connected and learning. The expansion of Virtual Virginia will help ensure that the closure of schools and interruption of formal instruction this spring does not lead to a widening of achievement gaps.”
Virtual Virginia will expand its offerings to include elementary and middle school content as an option for students to learn content missed this spring. Courses will begin in May and the new course content will be available to any school division that enrolls students and teachers in the program, at no cost to the division.
Virtual Virginia content can be loaded onto devices for use by students in homes without sufficient internet access to support online learning. The expansion does not affect the more than 6,000 students already enrolled in one or more of Virtual Virginia’s 81 high school-level courses.
“The expansion of Virtual Virginia will provide additional options for school divisions to present the instruction and content that they are unable to provide this spring in traditional classroom settings,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane. “Access to the Virtual Virginia platform will be especially helpful for teachers and students in school divisions without robust distance learning systems.”
The expansion of Virtual Virginia is the third major action the Commonwealth has taken within the last week to mitigate the impact of school closures on students.
The “VA TV Classroom” was launched April 13 by four Virginia public media stations. Blue Ridge PBS, VPM, WETA, and WHRO Public Media worked closely with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to create the programming to provide teacher-led, on-air instruction aligned with the Commonwealth’s academic standards for students who are unable to access other distance learning options.
To support Virginia educators, VDOE established the Continuity for Learning (C4L) Task Force consisting of more than 120 teachers, leaders, and collaborating educational partners across Virginia. Working with the C4L Task Force, VDOE launched Virginia Learns Anywhere, a hub of resources and recommendations to reinforce much-needed structure while also empowering individual teachers to support students in learning remotely. The C4L Task Force encourages divisions to develop and implement continuous learning plans in partnership with local county health departments, families, staff, and local boards of education.
Virginia Learns Anywhere includes a guidance document for teachers and schools on providing equitable learning opportunities for students and preventing the widening of achievement gaps and meet the social and emotional needs of students while schools are closed. Sample instructional modules cover essential knowledge and skills for all content areas and grade levels and provide recommendations on integrating the skills and attributes known as the “5 C’s” critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration and citizenship) into distance learning.
A comprehensive list of resources, guidance, and support documents for K-12 public schools in Virginia during the COVID-19 school closures is available here. Find answers to frequently asked questions here.