I was asked the other day what I thought was an appropriate student/teacher ratio in virtual schools. The short answer is "I do not know." However, I am not sure that is the right question overall, or at least the one we need to focus all of our attention on.
The real issue virtual schools must understand is the vital, the critical role teachers play in the world of virtual education. Irregardless if the teachers are providing the daily instruction or seeing their students face-to-face, that relationship between the student and their teacher(s) is still the most important component.
So, rather than discuss ratios, I suggest we ask questions more related to ways we can equip, support, and empower the teachers to serve the students.
Let's equip the teachers with the tools they need to interact and engage with students in order to develop the types of relationships where students can perform to their best.
Let's support the teachers with the initial and ongoing training required to excel in the world of virtual education. It's a different way of life than brick and mortar, and it should include more than just the normal professional development that one finds in schools. Relating to students and supporting students in a virtual environment is quite different than the traditional counterparts.
And, do not forget the practical support to give them the time to be a teacher.
Let's empower the teachers to fulfill their role. The curriculum, the lessons, the online tools, are all nice and necessary, but let's provide the teachers the authority to guide, to adapt, and to inspire the learning that should occur.
Virtual education has a place, and teachers still matter most.