What is ORVSD?
The full program name is the Oregon Virtual School District. ORVSD is not an online school. It is a free resource for online teaching and learning designed to promote the use of technology in Oregon classrooms. We offer Oregon public school educators the opportunity to find and share online resources, learn and use cutting edge online tools, and discuss how to put them to use in the classroom. The Program has been funded by the Oregon Legislature and managed by the Oregon Department of Education since 2005. Oregon schools know the ORVSD services as “Moodle” or “Google Apps for Education.” ORVSD serves over 250 schools with online courses, teaching applications, Google Applications for Education, and professional development and ongoing support for teachers.
What is the ORVSD mission?
The mission of ORVSD is to provide equitable access to online resources for student instruction in Oregon public schools.
So what does all that really mean to schools?
ORVSD offers schools the opportunity to implement online instruction using their teachers without having to pay for the infrastructure and course leasing. OVSD provides learning management servers, middle school and high school courses like Florida Virtual School courses, access to partner services like the Apex AP Exam Review and Test Preparation courses. All of the ORVSD services are controlled by teachers, schools and districts.
Why isn’t ORVSD an online school?
ORVSD was not given the statutory authority to provide instruction and award course credit. In 2005 when the Oregon Legislature created ORVSD there were already a number of established part time and full time online schools provided by ESDs and school districts. A State funded online school would have undercut those programs and created unequal access to the resources provided by the Governor and Legislature. ORVSD was presented to schools as a package of online resources that teachers could use to provide instruction.
How is ORVSD funded?
ORVSD is funded through a Legislative Appropriation made to ODE. ODE has consistently pursued partnerships that leverage the public investment to provide a robust set of services. For every public $1 invested in ORVSD, ODE has demonstrated a private sector leverage of at least $2 since 2005. Examples of leveraged resources include donated laptops for schools from companies like Intel and Google, student email through Google Applications for Education and unlimited access to Florida Virtual School courses for all public schools. These partnerships are crafted very carefully to realize the maximum return on the investment made by the Governor and Legislature.
Does ORVSD serve private schools?
No, ORVSD is only authorized to serve Oregon public schools.
Why can’t private schools in Oregon use ORVSD?
This issue has been reviewed by legal counsel. The current statutory authority does not allow for the ORVSD services to be extended to private schools in Oregon.
Why does ORVSD prefer use open source applications?
The truth is ORVSD offers an open source based set Oregon Cloud services and proprietary cloud services through business partners like Google. The decision to use open source applications for the initial ORVSD services was business driven rather than technology driven. The Legislative appropriations for ORVSD have ranged from $2m to $1.5m each biennium. Legislative requirements and the cost realities of providing schools with courses, online learning management services and teacher professional development presented a significant challenge. The availability of funds and the statutory mandate to provide schools with equitable access to online instructional resources led ODE to establish a partnership with the Open Source Lab (OSL) at Oregon State University. The OSL has been a valuable and effective partner in creating and delivering secure online applications that can scale to every Oregon school district’s needs. Without the OSL partnership, open source software would not have been a viable option. The OSL hosts the infrastructure and employes professional staff and students to configure, operate, support and enhance the ORVSD services. ORVSD is open to any solution that can meet the needs identified by schools and can be effectively provided to teachers and students.
My school tried to use ORVSD years ago and it was just too hard. What is different today than it was six years ago?
The short answer is this. The ORVSD services have evolved in a manner that reduces teacher set up time, is easier to use and looks better, while still preserving the teacher’s flexibility to modify things if they wish. The result is a more Enterprise turn key approach. ORVSD has been successful because of innovative teachers who were invested in next generation online options for their students. Many of these teachers are requesting a new solution that incorporates more social networking characteristics, is easier to build lessons with and offers a tighter integration with Google Apps. ORVSD is currently evaluating additional application services that would not replace our current offering, but provide a second option that addresses these requirements.
This is the long answer, if you are interested. When the ORVSD platform was first released in 2006, it was not a turnkey solution. The services appealed to teachers who wanted maximum user flexibility as well as the ability to create their own online courses and student activities. Even with the professional development and support services, significant set up time was required by any teacher using ORVSD. The huge number of options available in both instructional materials and learning management server was often overwhelming and always time consuming.
In 2009, NWRESD approached ODE about leasing the Florida Virtual School Courses to begin offering a regional online instructional offering. In 2010, NWRESD and the Tigard-Tualatin School District (TTSD) approached ODE about using the ORVSD services to create an online Academy for the TTSD high schools. The online Academy approach required more of an “Enterprise Solution” that provided a more polished district wide product. The ESD and TTSD helped us understand how to configure a turnkey solution that looked better and was easier to use “out of the box”. Both organizations deserve a lot of credit in ORVSD improving our services.
The next step forward in ORVSD services was realized with the great effort and dedication of the Hillsboro School District and the Portland Public School District. The Hillsboro and Portland school districts requested the same set of services. Portland had developed a concept for the Virtual Scholars Credit Recovery Program and Hillsboro had conceptualized the Hillsboro Online Academy for full time online student instruction. While each district was serving a different student population they shared a common set of requirements requested of ORVSD. They needed a set of high quality online courses, learning management services packaged in an easy to use and visually appealing solution. Again, these districts get most of the credit for what they realized. District staff invested a lot of time in realizing a solution built on ORVSD. The ease of use and look and feel of the ORVSD services improved significantly.
Now, when ORVSD sets up new services for a district or a school, we configure the dedicated learning management server with all the common plug-in features we anticipate teachers will need. We then configure all of the courses available in the Repository to automatically use those features when one is selected for use. Lastly we have improved the standard look and feel of the out of the box set up and added a number of themes to the learning management system configuration so a different look and feel and be selected if the school or district wishes. The ORVSD Partners who collectively provide the shared services platform always try to realize the improvements teachers want to provide a positive student experience.