Virtual School Meanderings

January 7, 2010

Top 8 Virtual Schooling Universities

Let me begin by saying that this list is very subjective, based on my understanding of what each of these institutons offer in terms of virtual schooling, although I have provided my rationale for my specific ranking with each entry.  I welcome discussion on this item (as I do all of my blog entries), and if there are programs out there that I am unaware of, please advise in the comments section.

1. Iowa State University

ISU was the first university to tackle virtual schooling in a comprehensive way through their Teacher Education Goes Into Virtual Schooling program.  This program created specific courses focused on virtual schooling, along with providing for online student teaching experiences, for both undergraduate and graduate level students.  The TEGIVS program also made many of their curricular materials available under a Creative Commons license, so that other colleges and universities could use their instructional items, assignments, syllabi, etc..

2. University of Florida

As much as it pains me to say it, being a Georgia Bulldog and all, but Florida also has a three course Graduate Certificate in Online Teaching and Learning with a single course focused on virtual schooling (i.e.,  EDG 6931: Virtual School Philosophy and Pedagogy).  In addition to the certificate and this focused course, Florida is also home to the Virtual School Clearinghouse, along with Cathy Cavanaugh and, formerly, Rick Ferdig (who has recently moved to Kent State University).

3. Boise State University

BSU was the first university in the United States to have its own Graduate Certificate in Online Teaching with a strong emphasis on the K-12 environment.  In addition to (or within) the three course graduate certificate, there is at least one course that is solely focused on K-12 online learning (i.e., EDTECH 521 – Online Teaching in the K-12 Environment).  While not listed among the regular courses, I also know that in the past they have had special topics courses focus on virtual schooling (see New Grad Course in Virtual School Leadership).  Finally, I should note that Kerry Rice and Lisa Dawley are at BSU – which means the Going Virtual! professional development research series has come out of BSU (see first year and second year reports here).

4. Wayne State University

WSU recently created its own Graduate Certificate in Online Teaching that has a K-12 track and an adult/post-secondary track (note the website for the certificate should be released in the next week or so).  Like the Florida and BSU certificates, the WSU certificate has a single virtual schooling focused course (i.e., IT6230 – Internet in the Classroom).  However, unlike the other certificates the WSU one is a four course program and also includes a two credit hour online teaching practicum (for the K-12 students, WSU is partnering with a soon to be named virtual school – just working out the final details).  Finally, also like Florida and BSU, WSU has a single faculty member focused on virtual school research – that would be me, Michael Barbour.

Note: This does seem like a homer pick, but when you look at the courses/programs and research focused on virtual schooling this is roughly where Wayne State should be placed.

5. a) Georgia State University and b) Valdosta State University

The fifth one is a tie between two Georgia institutions, both of whom offer programs that will allow teachers to add the online teaching endorsement to their teacher’s certificate.  The Georgia State program is a four course sequence with an e-portfolio, while the Valdosta State program is a three course program.

6. a) Queen’s University

The sixth ones are two Canadian institutions that make the list for very different reasons.  Queen’s is where Geoff Roulet is a faculty member.  Each year Geoff teaches a course entitled Teaching and Learning Online (which I have discussed in the past at Teaching And Learning Online) that focused upon K-12 online learning.

6. b) Memorial University of Newfoundland

One of my alma matas, MUN was the first to offer any kind of program in K-12 online learning when it had an undergraduate Diploma in Telelearning and Rural School Teaching (which has since ceased to exist, see Telelearning And Rural School Teaching for some of the details). However, it is mainly placed at number six due to the fact that it is also home to the Killick Centre for E-Learning Research on this blog in the past (see Killick Centre tag for past blog entries).  I should also note that Elizabeth Murphy, who has been writing extensively about K-12 online teaching, is a faculty member there.

7. a) Plymouth State University and b) Framingham State College and Northwest Nazarene University

One of the leaders in K-12 online learning, the Virtual High School Global Consortium, offers five professional development courses that are solely focused on online learning in the K-12 environment.  Over the years, they have entered into partnerships with Plymouth State, Framingham State and Northwest Nazarene that allows students to pay the college or university for graduate credit hours upon completion of the VHS professional development courses. Further, Plymouth State will grant a Certificate in Online Teaching and Learning upon the completion of all five courses.

8. University of Central Florida

Earlier this year UCF announced a partnership with Florida Virtual School to offer online student teaching placements with FLVS teachers.

So, that’s my list and my rationales…  What do you think?  Are there programs I missed?  Would ou change the rankings based on other information?


  1. What about Michigan State?

    Comment by Erik Black — January 7, 2010 @ 12:31 pm | Reply

  2. Erik, while I know that Patrick Dickson is at Michigan State and that Michigan Virtual School is full of MSU graduates, I’m not aware of any published or public research on K-12 online learning coming out of Michigan State (again, beyond Patrick’s NCREL report back in 2005). And if I was just included places where there are faculty doing some virtual schooling research, I’d have to add Columbia (Susan Lowes), Arizona State (Leanna Archambault), and several other universities to the list (e.g., Allen Whitlatch at South Dakota State is doing some really interesting work with a cyber charter school and students in a Hutterite colony).

    In terms of projects, I do know that the Confucius Institute at Michigan State University (CI‐MSU) has a partnership with Michigan Virtual School to teach the Mandarin Chinese classes – which is admittedly not that common. But I’m unable to find any kind of teacher education or certificate in online teaching program offered there.

    Comment by mkbnl — January 7, 2010 @ 6:35 pm | Reply

  3. @awassenmiller wrote this on Twitter:

    @mkbwsu My school (Univ of Nebraska) doesn’t offer anything until the PhD level – Internet-based education

    @mkbwsu Not sure since it isn’t my area of specialization. Here is the program link:

    Comment by mkbnl — January 7, 2010 @ 10:05 pm | Reply

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