Defining a 'virtual school'

The term 'virtual school' has been used in many ways including any school which uses the Internet or other technologies for any learning program or activity. More specifically, a virtual school is one where most or all of the education delivery is online. Some definitions from the literature include:

  • "Virtual school refers to an institution that is not 'brick and mortar' bound. All student services and courses are conducted through Internet technology. The virtual school differs from the traditional school through the physical medium that links administrators, teachers, and students" (The Technology Source Archives,
  • "accredited schools which deliver education almost solely via the Internet" (Barbour & Reeves, 2009)
  • "virtual schools (also known as cyber schools or online schools), which deliver their curriculum and provide instruction via the Internet and electronic communication" (Miron & Urschel, 2012).

It is important to note that virtual schooling is not new and the School of the Air in Australia is an example of virtual schooling. The first 'School of the Air' in Australia was established at Alice Springs on 8th June 1951. At that time teaching was via radio. Modern virtual schools use the affordances of the Internet and other more modern technologies.


Barbour, M. K., & Reeves, T. C. (2009). The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature. Computers & Education, 52(2), 402-416. doi:

Clark, T. (2001). Virtual Schools: Trends and Issues. A study of virtual schools in the United States.  Retrieved from

Miron, G., & Urschel, J. L. (2012). Understanding and improving full-time virtual schools: A study of student characteristics, school finance, and school performance in schools operated by k12, inc. E. Gunn (Ed.)   Retrieved from

The Technology Source Archives (N.D.). Definition. Retrieved from

Last modified: Tuesday, 24 November 2015, 8:15 PM