To identify and support critical needs surrounding various virtual learning environments, the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University and North Carolina Virtual Public Schools (NCVPS) have partnered to develop and implement a Virtual Schools Network (VSN). This one-of-a-kind program focuses on connecting educators in local traditional virtual/remote public schools in an effort to foster community, create connection and promote collaboration in the areas of engagement and community outreach and offer support for the unique systems and structures necessary for virtual school success.
Supporting the realities faced by virtual school educators
VSN understands that educators have worked tirelessly to address the challenges and struggles faced by our schools. Thus, from the start, the Friday Institute and NCVirtual teams have been committed to building a support system that puts the needs of educators, students and their families first. In March 2022, VSN began by offering an initial one-day convening in order to hear directly from those stakeholders working in virtual classrooms every day. Teams from nine virtual schools attended this event and collaborated on protocols designed to address the question:
How might we create an innovative network, designed to meet the unique needs of educators at virtual schools?
Several key themes stood out from our conversations:
- Virtual schools need support as they continue to grow.
- Problems experienced by virtual schools are not unique, and a collaborative network would help work through these challenges together.
- A community of practice would be beneficial to a virtual school’s network and help establish a means of transparency and communication about needs.
- Virtual schools now recognize that they are not alone; there are available resources within the state to listen, recognize and support issues.
The VSN team would be remiss not to acknowledge the amazing work of Dr. Tom Williams, Dr. Blake F. Wiggs, and Dr. Melissa Rasberry for getting the Virtual School Network off the ground. Thank you for helping us build the plane while flying it. Your expertise and guidance have been invaluable.