Virtual education and blended learning present great potential for delivering substantial academic gains and cost savings in Texas, according to a report published today by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

“At the K-12 level, the potential of virtual education is enormous,” said the report’s author, James Golsan. “Through the use of technology, students in rural districts would have access to the same educational resources as students in more populated areas. Familiarization with technology could prepare students for the work force more quickly.”

Virtual education is the delivery of a learning, training, or education program by electronic means. Blended learning is a mixture of instruction between a traditional classroom setting and online content delivery.

The report highlights several benefits from virtual education and blending learning, including improvements to course availability, dropout recovery, access to quality instructors, and programs for special-needs students. However, Texas remains behind the curve in making these tools available to Texas students, and should look to Florida as a model for how to significantly expand its digital offerings in a manner that promotes high academic quality and fiscal responsibility.

“Florida has one of the longest standing and most successful virtual education programs in the country,” Golsan said. “As Texas seeks to improve its own digital learning environment, an examination of the Florida model provides the state with an example by which to fashion, at the very least, its public virtual education after.”

According to Golsan, the current debate over school finance should seek to leverage the cost efficiencies that would accrue from a significant expansion of digital learning.

“Currently, Texas funds its students at a rate of around $11,000 per pupil,” Golsan said. “Research suggests that full-time virtual students can be educated for between $1,500 and $3,000 less per student than those in traditional brick-and-mortar settings.”

The report also recommends the easing of the course approval process for digital coursework, the promotion of private provider participation in digital learning, the creation of a scholarship program for digital learners, and the opening of the Texas Virtual School Network to private and home-schooled students.

The report, “Virtual Education & the Future of Texas Education,” is available on the Foundation’s website,

James Golsan is an education policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin.