Julie Young is president and chief executive offer of Florida Virtual School, which she helped launch in 1997. The organization, which has a staff of more than 1,200, provides nearly 100 courses to more than 130,000 students annually. Young chairs the United States Distance Learning Association and serves on the boards of the North American Council for Online Learning and the Florida Learning Alliance. She is a member of the Southern Regional Education Board’s Distance Learning Task Force, the Florida TaxWatch Center for Educational Performance and Accountability, and the UT TeleCampus National Advisory Board. In 2003, Young was inducted into the USDLA hall of fame.
T&L contributing editor Matt Bolch interviewed with Julie Young to find out more about her thoughts on edtech.
MB: How do you make sure students “connect” with the material
in a virtual environment?
JY: Addressing the needs of students is our primary goal and
focus. By leveraging technology, highly qualified teachers and innovative
curriculum design, we are giving students a learning environment that looks
more like a corporate office than a traditional classroom.
We help connect with students and address their needs by
hiring and training teachers and by developing courses where students actively
engage in lessons and participate in 21st century learning. FLVS provides
teachers a diverse mix of professional development and training opportunities
where they can swap best practices, learn new strategies boosting student
engagement and refine teaching methods.
The curriculum development team is constantly explore new
methods to improve courses to make the experience more dynamic for students.
Last year, we introduced a new course that is delivered completely in an online
gaming environment. We have also added new text-to-voice technologies, more
videos and interactive, online simulations and study tools for the iPhone or
MB: What challenges (technological or otherwise) do you see
to wider virtual learning adoption?
JY: Helping traditionalists better understand how online
learning can support, supplement and enhance a student's overall education
experience is one of the first barriers we need to cross. We have always
advocated for a blended learning environment where students have options for
how to reach their educational goals.
Access to online courses requires broadband and funding. In
2003, the Florida State legislature established sustainable funding for FLVS;
this allowed the program to grow to meet student demand. One of our ongoing
challenges is increasing broadband access to students in rural and underserved
communities who can greatly benefit from a broader list of courses to
supplement traditional course schedules.
Keeping pace with technology is certainly something we watch
carefully. Students typically have to "power down" when they go to
school. Our curriculum innovation team is working hard to make sure this is not
the case when students enroll in FLVS courses.
MB: Briefly, where do you see the future of virtual learning
JY: Enrollments in online courses growing at greater than 25%
annually and will continue to grow. I see a future where students do not learn
just one way--they pick and choose their options based upon strengths, not
weakness. In the future, I see schools that offer true blended learning
opportunities. Courses will become more interactive and students will become
greater producers of content, rather than simply memorizing facts, figures and
I see a learning environment that is built upon future
needs--21st century skills--so students graduate prepared for college or the
global workplace. Virtual courses will help them by improving communication and
collaboration skills, enhancing critical thinking and problem-solving abilities
and fostering opportunities for creativity and innovation.