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Volume 27, Number 4
July/August 2011

“Clicks” Get Bricks

Once completely virtual, some K–12 online schools are settling into buildings


A student in Miami-Dade County works in a computer lab run by Florida Virtual Schools.

From its humble beginnings with 400 students in 2001, Connections Academy offered a complete, full-time education online for kindergarten through 12th grade students who wanted or needed to learn in more of a home-school setting. The academy’s students included athletes and actors whose demanding training or work schedules required that they be able to learn whenever and wherever they could fit it in. There were students with health issues unable to attend a traditional school, high achievers and struggling students, all of whom took their classes online, under the supervision of a parent or another adult “learning coach.”

Fast forward to 2011. Connections Academy operates in more than 20 states and serves more than 30,000 students. And it’s not alone. In just one decade, virtual learning has exploded, with two massive statewide full-time virtual schools in Florida and North Carolina, and more on the way.

But just as online learning is taking off, new research is finding that it may not be the most effective way to teach children, and virtual companies have begun to see that a purely virtual approach has its limits.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.