State-sponsored online learning program preparing for uptick in enrollment due to COVID-19 pandemic

State-sponsored online learning program preparing for uptick in enrollment due to COVID-19 pandemic
State-sponsored online learning program preparing for uptick in enrollment due to COVID-19 pandemic (Source: Jason Raven)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Stephanie Walters has been teaching virtually for more than 7 years.

"I saw some fantastic examples of how teachers transitioned to brick and mortar classrooms to engaging with their students online," Walters said.

Walters is one of the 40 full-time teachers working for VirtualSC. VirtualSC is a state-sponsored, free online program. It’s open to middle and high school students in public, private, and home schools. They also offer adult education as well.

According to Director Bradley Mitchell, they have had steady growth in enrollment over the last few years. He said this fall they are gearing up for a big increase. They won't know the exact numbers until the enrollment period happens in August.

“The main thing we’re looking for right now are teachers. We got some job postings out. We’re trying to find some part-time teachers to supplement our part-time staff,” he said.

Mitchell said they have about 18 school districts participating in franchise programs. These programs allow districts to expand their online offerings that fit their students' needs.

"Right now we have another twelve that have reached out about starting up a program in the fall. Likely that's due to the situation we are seeing across the state," he said.

In these franchise programs, districts use their own teachers. The South Carolina Education Association said their main concern is making sure teacher workload doesn't increase by splitting time between in-person teaching and online teaching.

President Sherry East said, "Let's say half the parents want to go virtual so half of your teachers should teach virtually," she said.

Walters said the workload for online teaching compared to online teaching is pretty much the same. " You just have to be a little more intentional with communication and setting expectations in the online learning environment," she said.

VirtualSC said they are working with school districts to train teachers.

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