As technology continues to open up new possibilities in education, Texas districts are changing how they manage and employ virtual classrooms.
Four years ago, Houston ISD tested a University of Central Florida program called TLE TeachLivE, where teachers tried out new teaching methods in front of virtual students. The students were simulated by the computer and programmed to react the same way a student might react to the teacher’s lesson in a real classroom.
This concept allowed teachers to practice delivering their lessons and posing questions, then immediately learning from the virtual student responses how they can improve that lesson for real-life classroom use.
Today, virtual classrooms used as a solution for districts who don’t have enough teachers to accommodate their student population. This technology puts remote teachers in front of real students using a webcam, online chat, and a microphone.
A virtual classroom requires a classroom teacher aide to oversee the students, but instruction is still led by a fully certified teacher. This option allows districts to hire teachers who live outside of their area when they are unable to recruit and retain local teachers. Ector County ISD proposed this solution to their school board in September 2018, and the virtual classroom program, provided by Proximity Learning, was approved by the board for four classes of American Sign Language. The proposed cost for a virtual teacher was $59,400 for a year-long course, and the annual pay for a classroom aide to supervise students on-site was $17,763.
Other virtual classroom options are available for Texas school children in grades 3–12 through the Texas Education Agency (TEA) via their Texas Virtual School Network (TXVSN). This program works in partnership with approved TEA-accredited public schools to provide students with interactive, collaborative, instructor-led online courses taught by state-certified and appropriately credentialed teachers trained in effective online instruction.
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