Tag Archives: educational technology

Virtual School Glossary

Virtual School Glossary

by Mark Sivy


During my dissertation writing process last year, I noted several terms associated with virtual schools that needed clear descriptions. The following terms are defined within the context of the study:

At-a-Distance – interaction between individuals occurring over a geographic or time separation, usually technology mediated.

Digital – technology that uses discrete values (binary code) to transmit and process data.

Distance Education – the use of teaching methods and media (whether audio, visual or digital technology) to produce learning when instructors and students are not physically present in the same location at the same time.

Distributed Leadership – at-a-distance leadership that is shared among multiple individuals.

Educational Technology – technology for teaching, learning, and academic support purposes. This can include instructional development and deployment, communication, visualization and social media technology.

E-Learning – electronically supported and mediated teaching and learning, usually being computer or web-based. It is not synonymous with online learning, which is rather a subset of e-learning.

Full-time Program – these virtual school programs provide courses to student who are enrolled primarily or only in the virtual school.

Home School – the physical school at which a student is an enrolled member. Associated with students who are usually taking one or two courses through a virtual school.

Instructional Technology – refers to the use of specific technologies that facilitate instruction.

Leader – an individual who inspires or influences an individual or group of individuals to accomplish common goals and tasks.

Online – a state of connectivity that exists via the Internet and that is accessed through a digital processor-based technology such as a computer or mobile device.

Online School Program – a program that provides supplemental courses to students who are enrolled full-time in a traditional school.

Online Education –a major subgroup of distance education that uses the Internet for teaching and learning.

Personalized Virtual Learning – developing curriculum and instruction for a virtual school that enables learners to progress at their own pace, within limitations and as gauged by mastery of learning objectives.

State-led Virtual Schools – virtual schools that are authorized by a state-level governing body that often structures the school, determines policy, and provides a financial model.

Technology-facilitated – using technology in a manner to help bring about a desired outcome.

Traditional School (brick and mortar school) – a school housed and operated within a physically constructed space.

Virtual – an existence or extension of existence that is created, simulated, presented, or experienced using interconnected computers via networks and related technologies.

Virtual Education – teaching and learning that occurs through interconnected computers via networks and related technologies.

Virtual School (cyber school, fully online charter school) – an educational organization that entirely offers its courses and services for students who are at-a-distance via the Internet using web-based content, tools and methods.

Web-based – that which uses the attributes and resources of the World Wide Web.

World Wide Web – the global system of interlinked hypertext documents that are accessed through the Internet and viewed using a web browser.


One of the greatest issues I’ve found during my recent career experiences and education is the great variety of uses and definitions of common terminology associated with online / virtual education. This can be a challenge in the United States, and is be even more of an issue internationally. With this awareness, misunderstandings can be kept to a minimum.

There are many other terms and phrases associated with virtual schooling. Additional resources for these can be found at:

Reflection Point – “You must learn to talk clearly. The jargon of scientific terminology which rolls off your tongues is mental garbage.”     ~Martin H Fischer


Digital Library Planning

Digital Library Planning – Guidelines to Consider

by Mark Sivy

Digital LibraryIn researching existing literature for guidelines and suggestions on what is involved in planning for a digital library, there were a few resources that were particularly useful. There are many resources about what is involved in creating a digital library, from the Library of Congress’s Challenges to Building an Effective Digital Library to texts such as How to Build a Digital Library. Suiting my personal curiosities, I found the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (2010) publication Planning Tool for Developing a Digital Library of Monitoring and Evaluation Resources to be particularly useful and it serves as a basis for much of what I have presented below.

The following are considerations to be made when planning a digital library. Even though this post provides a basic set of guidelines and information for establishing a digital library, the final details will depend upon the actual planning and development process for a given digital library and will be determined by its target audience and needs.

1. Who Are the Patrons?

It is of great importance at the onset of the project to define the digital library’s target users. Once these users and their communities are identified, it is then essential to establish their needs, abilities, and access related to the library.

2. Collaboration

For the library concept to develop and eventually succeed it is essential to identify stakeholders and collaborators who will be instrumental in establishing and maintaining the library and in developing and applying the criteria for content inclusion and to acquire the holdings.

3. Operating and Managing

Determine the organization structure, operation, and sustainability of the library.

4. Digital Library Technologies

Identify and address issues related to the digital existence and operations of the library. This includes such considerations as hardware, software, meta-data structure, and converting non-digital media to digital media.

Digital Library Technology

5. Accessibility and Usability

Identify and address issues related to the usability of the library including functionality issues, the user interface, the user experience, and policies that govern the use of a digital library.

6. The Content

Decide upon the content and the materials to be contained in the digital library.

7. Maintenance

Determine what is needed for the short-term and long-term upkeep of the digital library.

8. Legal Concerns

Define and address the legal implications of providing materials in the library including copyrights, intellectual property rights, and fair use of materials.

9. Access and Security

Incorporates the issues to be addressed when determining who will access the library, how they will access it, and what security needs to be considered to safeguard the library and its patrons.

10. Support

Support requirements and mechanisms for the digital library and its patrons.

11. Professional Development and Training

Identify library staff and patron development and learning needs.

12. Communications / Media

Establish the means for internal and external communications such as announcements, notifications, contacts, discussions and feedback

13. Cost Implications

Identify the key factors affecting the cost of developing and maintaining a digital library.

14. Outreach

Create a social media plan, a marketing strategy and external partnerships.

Reflection Point – A library is not a luxury, but of the necessities of life. ~Henry Ward Beecher

Digital Libraries for Virtual Schools

A Digital Library for Virtual Education – What is it and why should it be part of the virtual school?

by Mark Sivy

john-work-garrett-library-211375_1280There are many aspects of a traditional school that are taken for granted, but require special consideration and measures to be able to offer them within the realm and culture of a virtual school. One such piece that many consider to be the hub of education in a school is the library. The library has been a place where students learn about performing research, gain specialized in-depth knowledge, are self-motivated to learn and reflect, and can find momentary solitude or solace from many of life’s stresses and pressures. Some of the time-honored benefits of a conventional library can be extended to virtual schools through adaptation, other uses may not apply, and new practices and advantages are possible. This also involves more that using e-books through services such as OverDrive or Follett’s Enlight.

Given the increasing enrollments and social acceptance of virtual schools, having access to electronic versions of library materials and services can facilitate the learning process and addresses the mobile needs and schedules of learners. A digital library provides a central access point for those resources that are similar to ones found in a traditional library such as books, papers, journals, magazines, audio sources, video productions, and web-based materials. The concept has been around for a while, as seen in an article, Roles for Digital Libraries in K-12 Education, written by Miriam Masullo and Robert Mack in 1996. With the variety and volume of content, the digital resources are often locally managed through a common interface such as a custom website, but are delivered from an assortment of cloud-based services. Because these are available through the Internet, the electronic resources are available through devices such as personal computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.


With this occurring within the realm of electronic networks, new approaches beyond the traditional library can be integrated into the fabric of the virtual school environment. Connections can be created between digital libraries, other digital repositories, and learning management systems. This online storehouse is capable of distributing educational information to a great number of primary and secondary students across geographic, economic, and cultural boundaries.

For the virtual learner, social media can be tied in with the library to create an engaging and enriching social aspect. This and other educational technologies can be used to create sharing and collaborative efforts between students, which is one of the cornerstones of 21st Century Learning. It also enables the teacher to have multiple students simultaneously using resources or to work as a team through common access to projects and materials.

On the logistical front, digital libraries can allow content and services to be made available to a greater number of individuals at a lower per student cost than traditional libraries. The preservation and storage of existing and future acquisitions becomes less of an issue as do the needs for large physical structures and furnishings. Digital libraries also remove the concerns and expense of non-returned materials, damaged books, checking-out /checking-in, theft, and following up with students.

A Digital Library for Education, Part II will outline what is involved in creating a digital library.

Reflection Point: The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man. ~T.S. Eliot

Virtual School Ecosystems

Virtual School Ecosystems

by Mark Sivy

Graduate GlobeWith my doctoral degree now complete, I have an added wealth of knowledge, research skills, and theoretical perspective that complements many years of practical experience in educational technology, e-learning, and educational leadership. It’s now time to pull all of of this together and put it to some good use.

As a way to share what I’ve learned and have yet to discover about virtual school ecosystems, I’ve created this blog. So what makes up these ecosystems? Well, it involves all of those interactive school components, such as operations, infrastructure, technology systems, learners, governance, communication, community, teams, and staff. Please keep in mind that even though I refer to virtual schools, the information presented in this blog applies to similar references such as cyber schools, online school programs, and virtual charter schools.

Since I have other interests related to virtual school ecosystems, I also decided to create these additional blogs:

Sailing Ship LRAt this point each blog will set sail in its own direction and take on a life of their own. The destinations are many, with several being charted and where going where the winds might blow. So now onward with these journeys…

Reflection Point – I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by; And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking, And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.  ~ First stanza of Sea Fever by John Masefield