Virtual School case study 2 – Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School (PALCS)

In my earlier case study of the Open School of Utah, I talked about the balance between the physical and virtual. All virtual schools must weigh the value of person-to-person physical interaction and determine whether in-person social interaction is an element of the school design. Mixed in-person and virtual schooling is often called “blended learning.” Some virtual schools incorporate almost no physical interaction and some work hard to make it a central part of their work.

An example of the latter is the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School (PALCs). PALCS has as mission similar to the Open School although they do not engage in open source development. PALCS has done significant work adding physical elements to their virtual design. The second sentence of their mission statement reads, “PALCS will combine the benefits of a classical basics oriented education with the latest Internet / computer technology and the best teaching and learning education practices.”

This blended vision is evident in the incorporation of several large-scale physical learning components, including:

A performing arts center:

The performing and fine arts program is an adjunct, audition-only program component to the cyber charter school that allows students to explore a well rounded arts education. The Center for Performing and Fine Arts opened in the fall of 2005; today, the Center has an enrollment of nearly 200 middle and high school students.

A leadership development program:

At Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School, we strive to integrate leadership qualities into all courses. These traits are emphasized in all aspects of the Leadership Center and are presented live through field trips, events, retreats and career courses, and virtually through activities posted in Moodle.

A college prep school site:

The Advanced Ideas Center is available as a resource for on-site and cyber connected University Scholars students throughout the state. The Center is located in historic West Chester, PA where University Scholars students attend class 2 to 3 times a week. The Advanced Ideas Center provides a small learning community where individual and diverse academic achievement is valued and supported in this blended learning situation.

(When it comes to special education, however, resource teachers, rather than a physical location are their preferred method of service delivery, make of that what you will)

PALCs is evidently developing a very different innovative model than the Open School. PALCS appears to be investing significant resources in creating a variety of virtual and in-person learning experiences that support students across their various forms of intelligence.

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