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Special Issue of the journal Education Sciences on Virtual Schools

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Special Issue of the journal "Education Sciences" on "Virtual Schools" (online K-12 providers)

The Special Issue aims to consolidate cutting-edge research and insights into K-12 virtual schools to serve as a comprehensive resource for researchers, policy makers, school leaders and virtual school teachers.

Its full title is "Virtual Schools for K-12 Education: Lessons Learned and Implications for Digital K-12 and Other Sectors of Education" (Guest Editors: Paul Bacsich, Sara de Freitas and Bieke Schreurs).

The deadline for submissions is now 1 October 2024.

Education Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access journal.


The scope of this Special Issue encompasses the development, implementation, and evaluation of virtual schools, with a focus on innovation, accessibility, diversity and educational outcomes. It aims to provide significant coverage of countries including from the Global South and smaller countries (including Small Island States).

We hope that some authors may wish to collaborate on studies spanning several countries or states. In-depth analysis of specific virtual schools is encouraged, preferably with input from practitioners at these schools, with a view to drawing relevant lessons for other virtual schools. It is also hoped that some papers will focus on the use and impact of open educational resources in virtual schools.

Full details of the Guest Editors, the Special Issue topic suggested topic list, and submission information can be found at the MDPI web site https://www.mdpi.com/journal/education/special_issues/8Y66O7K8D8

Key topics

The following topic list is structured based mainly on the SELFIE and DigCompEdu schemes for the digital maturity of schools used in many countries, but with detailed items taken from literature searches and recent consultations with virtual schools.

It will from time to time be updated with clarifications, new (but relevant) topics, and links to relevant pages on this wiki

External environment

  • Role of national, regional and municipal governments in providing virtual schooling and finance for it
  • International policy aspects (e.g., UNESCO SDGs, EU policy issues, OECD reports, etc.)
  • Ongoing effects of the COVID pandemic on virtual schools


  • Business and organizational models of virtual schools, including virtual supplementary schools and interworking with place-based schools
  • Cost and time issues affecting virtual schools differently from place-based schools
  • Managing many part-time and adjunct distributed staff

Infrastructure and equipment

  • Future directions for learning management systems and related systems (e-exams, proctoring, portfolios, AI, etc.)
  • Providing a uniform student experience for distributed students on a range of devices
  • Affordances of tablets and phones (rather than personal computers) in infrastructure provision
  • Scaling to handle unexpected demands (pandemics, natural disasters, etc.)

Professional development

  • Teacher training and professional development for online K-12 education
  • Monitoring and improving staff digital competence
  • Professional development for school leaders of virtual schools
  • The value of formal qualifications for virtual school staff

Pedagogical aspects

  • Improving learning outcomes
  • Synchronous and asynchronous learning — managing a balance
  • Collaborative learning
  • Personalized learning in the virtual school and the dialectic with national/regional syllabi and exams (if any)
  • Technological and techno-pedagogic innovations in virtual schooling
  • Pedagogical challenges in an increasingly diverse student body
  • Dealing with the "challenging" virtual school student
  • Offering "difficult" subjects in a virtual school (sports, dance, music, laboratory work)

Content and curricula

  • Quality aspects of content and pedagogy
  • Accessibility and inclusivity in virtual schools
  • Reducing the cost of content
  • Open educational resources

Assessment Practices

  • Challenges and solutions for virtual assessment
  • Integrating AI into assessment
  • Assessing collaborative work
  • Monitoring and improving student engagement

Student digital competence and citizenship

  • Monitoring and improving student digital competence
  • Creating the next generation of digital citizens

Collaboration and networking

  • Recruitment of staff — the competences needed and the role of staff induction
  • Benefits and problems of transfers of staff to and from place-based schools
  • Underpinning methodologies applying to virtual schools as well as place-based schools
  • Benchmarking and maturity models relevant to virtual schools
  • Role of parents/carers and other external stakeholders
  • Fostering of social and recreational opportunities in virtual schools
  • Impact of virtual schools on place-based schools
  • Future prospects of virtual schooling in K-12 education

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