Georgia Virtual School (GaVS), a program of the Georgia Department of Education's Office of Curriculum and Instruction was established in 2005 to provide options to students located in rural Georgia without access to AP courses. Today, GaVS provides a teacher led, virtual classroom environment and operates in partnership with schools and parents to offer middle school and high school level courses across Georgia. Last year GaVS served over 19,500 students in nearly 30,000 course segments, offering over 120 Online Courses and 97 Open Education Resources courses.
GaVS also equips students with an online media center and guidance center to support students throughout their online course experience. All GaVS courses are taught by Georgia certified, highly qualified teachers. GaVS courses are free of charge to all Georgia public school students who are taking the courses as a part of their state reported school day, so course start and end dates coincide with regular school semesters.
GaVS as a member of the Virtual School Leadership Alliance (VSLA), an association of the chiefs of virtual schools that provides collegial support and collaborative opportunities to the individual members and member organizations, is able to share resources, services, and expertise with other virtual State Schools. As a member of the VSLA, GaVS was able to become a member of Quality Matters (QM) to help review and improve the quality of their online offerings.
Georgia Virtual School and Quality Matters
The members of the VSLA have found value in their QM membership in a variety of ways. Joining QM as a consortium provides the members of the VSLA with a common language, and allows them to work together to conduct collaborative reviews across VSLA schools. Some of the partner schools are participating in QM-Managed Course Reviews for QM certification, while others are completing internal reviews.
GaVS is using the Quality Matters Rubric as a guideline. Their Development Team evaluated their existing courses and identified some areas of emphasis so their courses could be updated to meet more of the QM requirements. GaVS has used Quality Matters professional development workshops and courses to train a set of three teachers and two administrators. This group has completed the flagship K-12 Applying the Quality Matters Secondary Rubric workshop and the K-12 Reviewer Course. They now use their skills and expertise learned from the QM K-12 Secondary Rubric and review process to provide feedback on GaVS courses.
Ms. Tami Echard, the Supervisor of Instructional Development, has been with Georgia Virtual Learning since 2006. She first learned about QM when she attended the 5th Annual QM Conference in 2013 in Nashville TN. When VSLA joined QM and offered membership to every virtual school in the alliance, Ms. Echard and her team felt they could use the QM membership to help them make improvements in the quality of their courses. Today, she supervises five instructional designers and numerous subject matter experts for the school's development projects. The development team of instructional designers and support staff work with subject matter experts and curriculum reviewers to write the content and review the accuracy of the material. GaVS produces or revises around 20 courses every year. The courses and content developed by GaVS are created using open educational resources or resources created by GaVS. These courses are then shared out to the world on the Georgia Virtual Learning Resources website with a creative commons attribution, non-commercial, share-alike license. QM and it resources play a big part in the production and updating of these courses. GaVS development team this year is focusing on creating clear instructions at the beginning of each course to help with student confusion as they begin an online GaVS course. This is putting Standard 1 of the QM K-12 Secondary Rubric into action.
Going forward, GaVS will continue to use the QM Self-Review and Course Review System to conduct their own internal reviews, as they have found the Rubric to be a great benefit in evaluating their courses. In the future, they may consider working with the other members of the VSLA to expand these types of reviews, and get additional feedback. Conducting these informal reviews internally helps GaVS with the cost challenge and allows them to stretch their budget to accommodate any changes or modifications recommended by their review teams. Additionally, VSLA partners are considering pooling their resources further with the purchase of a training license which would provide additional professional development options for staff and help introduce and embed Quality Matters on a broader level.
Tami Echard is the Supervisor of Instructional Development and has been with Georgia Virtual School since 2006.