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10 Lessons from Florida Virtual

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After the iNACOL conference in Orlando, I stopped by Florida Virtual School, the nation's first and largest online public statewide school. It was a lot more fun than a trip to Disney and I learned 10 things about their success.

1. Big vision. The FLVS Vision is "to transform education worldwide--one student at a time."

2. Great results. As reported in September, FLVS Part Time Students Dramtically Outperform State Averages on all four state-created End-of-Course (EOC) exams: Algebra I, Geometry, Biology and U.S. History. In Algebra, 84% of FLVS students passed compared
to 64% of students statewide.

3. Ask students. FLVS develops most of its own content. They engage students in the process and track things kids like. They also relentlessly test assumptions. Student preferences don't always yield better results. For example, starting a lessons with a tough question doesn't poll well with students but it produces results.

4. Rich content. Focusing on student feedback, FLVS develops engaging content using attractive graphics, and often including game-based strategies. A recent survey indicated that 87% of students would like to complete lesson by playing a game. Students also work as "game testers."

FLVS has experimented with fully game-based courses and immersive environments and found them expensive to develop and challenging to support across a range of devices and environments.

5. Go mobile. New FLVS content is being designed for mobile devices--and that increasingly means smartphones. Video is integrated in ways similar to how students consume content outside of school.

6. Think mindset. FLVS teachers have incorporated growth mindset strategies into courses. Dweck's Brainology training helps teachers intervene with struggling students. They create a grit video to encourage a dialog with students and parents about purposeful struggle.

7. Get social. Created and launched by a FLVS student and his family, FLVS supported the development of a monitored social network, Grom Social. About 50,000 kids 5-16 have joined with a parent.

8. Distributed workforce. All of the 1,100 FLVS full-time teachers work remotely and almost all live in Florida. In many counties, FLVS teachers get together at local caf├ęs to collaborate and perform peer reviews, as well as, meet with students and parents.Teachers work in teams to ensure availability from 8am to 8pm.

9. Personalized learning. Every student has a Personalized Learning Passport (PLP) which gives the teachers information on student academic status in real time.

10. Quality assurance. There are monthly walk throughs with a lead teacher to review results for all students. A formal audit is conducted on every teacher, every year. These reviews indicated that the quality of feedback is key to performance.

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