Online Internship Prepares Teachers for Influx of Digital Classrooms

Virtual education is on the rise, and some schools of education are responding by offering students the opportunity to participate in a virtual teaching internship.

About 315,000 K-12 students took all of their courses online in the past school year, up 6.2 percent from the 2012-2013 school year, according to the consulting firm Evergreen Education Group, which tracks data to help schools implement online and blended learning programs.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Florida students can enroll in online programs offered by the state, school districts, or approved virtual charter schools. Some of these online course providers have grown out of necessity: a Florida state statute requires all high school students to complete one online course for graduation.

One provider, the Orlando-based Florida Virtual School, is the largest K-12 virtual school in the country and has partnerships with various Florida colleges, including the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida, and Pasco-Hernando State College, to train education majors in online teaching. The FLVS estimates that it has hosted over 428 interns since its initial partnership with UCF in 2009.

Education students have options with the FLVS internship. The Level I, pre-service opportunity is for juniors and lasts seven weeks. Students are taught effective online teaching strategies and learn to assess student progress and give feedback.

The Level II — generally for seniors — and Graduate-level internships take that one step further and allow students to teach an online class during their internship period, which lasts 14 to 16 weeks.

In 2014, researchers Matthew Chingos and Guido Schwerdt published a study on the Florida Virtual School that found students taking classes from the FLVS performed about as well as students in brick and mortar schools. The study also commended the FLVS for expanding educational access for students in a cost-effective way.

If virtual schools continue to grow, schools of education will need to consider how best to prepare students for nontraditional classrooms.●

Rebecca Prinster is a staff writer for INSIGHT Into Diversity.