MET:Virtual School for k-3 Learners

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This page was authored by Verena Roberts February 27, 2011. Stop Motion Animation added by Diana Loewen February 9, 2015.

Virtual k-3 elementary schools in British Columbia, Canada are public schools where students can complete their curriculum outcomes through online learning, or blended (hybrid) programs at home with their parents or caregiver.


Virtual schools in British Columbia evolved from distance education (correspondence) schools established in 1919 . With the introduction of the Internet, correspondence schools transitioned into distributed learning or virtual schools. The first virtual school in British Columbia was E-bus established in 1996. It was based on the premise that students were being home schooled by their parents while having their curriculum delivered by a school. Between 1996 and 2002 there were limits set by the BC Ministry of Education on the number of students allowed in a distributed learning program. In 2002, there were no limits on the amount of students allowed to learn through distance schools and the programs began to develop throughout the province. In 2006, Bill 33 defined distributed learning as,

"...a method of instruction that relies primarily on indirect communication between students and teachers, including internet or other electronic-based delivery, teleconferencing or correspondence; (School Act definitions)

Bill 33 introduced the virtual distributed learning school system Open School BC

In British Columbia school districts today, each virtual school is allowed to operate one distance education program or virtual school. In order to qualify to be registered, a student must be living somewhere in British Columbia.

Virtual Students

Traditionally, students who attend virtual schools are those whose parents who choose home schooling as opposed to traditional “bricks and mortar” classrooms. Students who live too far away from a school, have different values than those presented at traditional schools, students who have special needs and students who need enrichment often choose to attend virtual schools.


Virtual Teachers

Teachers who teach in a virtual school are certified British Columbia teachers. In most virtual schools, teachers require additional education to teach online such as a MET(University of British Columbia), or MALAT (Royal Roads University).

Virtual schools are now being recognized in national associations like the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education and internationally like the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education

Teachers like Bill Henderson with the Abbotsford Virtual School exemplify what virtual teaching can offer learners.

Virtual school programs

Students are taught the regular BC Ministry of Education Curriculum in all virtual schools. The teachers create the program, or Individualized Education Plan, for the students. In a kindergarten to grade 3 program, the parents teach the curriculum to the students in their home. Primary programs offer blended or hybrid learning program. The virtual school lessons generally follow Constructivism, Learning and Educational Technology,_Learning,_and_Educational_Technology teaching theories where the students frequently use the web 2.0 to extend and enrich their learning based on their previous knowledge. Parents are given core subject curriculum programs to work with at home. (Core subjects include Language Arts, mathematics, social studies and science) Fine Arts, Physical Education and social skills are offered through face to face classes as well. Field trips are organized to ensure that the curriculum outcomes for every subject are met throughout the school year. Virtual schools are audited to ensure the schools have teachers giving the parents the lessons to work on with their children, that there is evidence of work produced by the students and to ensure that provincial curriculum outcomes are being met at each grade level.

Virtual k-3 program

Students in kindergarten to grade 2 are dependent on their parents for help in reading and writing. Online courses are not provided for students younger than grade 3 at most virtual schools. Instead, teachers use other Educational technology tools like elluminate, skype, e-mail, voicethreads, classroom and student blogs and wikisto connect with students in a virtual environment. Once students are in grade 3, online courses and educational technology tools are used to create student programs. Textbooks, workbooks and student written materials are used to create a blended or hybrid program.

Benefits of Virtual Schooling

(Barbour and Reeves, 2009, p.409)

  • Higher Levels of Motivation
  • Expanding Educational access
  • Providing high-quality learning opportunities
  • Improving student outcomes and skills
  • Allowing for educational choice
  • Administrative efficiency

Challenges of Virtual Schooling

(Barbour and Reeves, 2009, p.411)

  • High Start-up costs associated with virtual schools
  • Access issues surrounding the digital divide
  • Approval or accreditation of virtual schools
  • Student readiness issues and retention issues

Socialization issues have also been mentioned as a challenge of virtual schooling.

Stop Motion Animation


Baker, J. D., Bouras, C., Hartwig, S. M., & McNair, E. R. (2005). K12, Inc. and the Colorado Virtual Academy: A virtual charter school. In Z. L. Berge & T. Clark (Eds.), Virtual schools: Planning for success (pp. 133-142). New York: Teachers College Press.

Barbour, Michael K. (2009) State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada. International Association for k-12 Online Learning. Retrieved February 26, 2011, from

Barbour, Michael K. & Reeves, T. C. (2009).The reality of virtual schools: A review of the Literature. Computers and Education, 52(2) 402-416.

Cavalluzzo, L. (2004). Organizational models for online education. Alexandria, VA: CNA Corporation. Retrieved August 9, 2006, from

Cavanaugh, Cathy S., Barbour, Michael K., &Clark, Tom (2009). Research and practice in K-12 Online Learning: A review of literature. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(1). Retrieved February 26, 2011 from

Steffenhagen, Janet. (2010, October 11) The Joys and Challenges of Teaching k-12 Online. The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved February 26, 2011 from