Q&A: Low Country Virtual

Low Country Virtual is a tuition-free, full-time, online public school program for students in elementary and middle school grades in South Carolina. We recently chatted with Meaghan Barber, Director of Low Country Virtual, about how the organization got started.

Beth Ritter-Guth

Meaghan Barber, Director of Low Country Virtual

Tell us how your organization got started.

Low Country Virtual got its start from a group of school systems in the Charleston Metro Region who had been collaborating for several years. After year one of the pandemic, the district superintendents wanted to discontinue emergency remote learning and shift into high-quality online learning based on the National Standards of Quality. Leaders from these districts spent eight months planning the program and working out the processes to share an online program across school district boundaries, and as a result, Low Country Virtual launched in the fall of 2021.

Low Country Virtual is tuition-free. Tell us why your organization chose to go this route and how effective this model has been?

That was an easy decision for us. We are a shared services model meaning we belong to eight school districts that partner together to offer an online program. Our district partners range in size from 1,500 students to more than 50,000 students. These district leaders realized that by partnering together they could expand their online program and offer parents the option to remain enrolled in the home school and district; yet, these students have the opportunity for the flexibility and benefits of an online program.

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Low Country Virtual digital flyer promoting their services.

Low Country prides itself on its quality assurances, partnering with some of the top organizations. Why was this important to you? How has that impacted the program’s success and enrollment?

We believe that a high-quality online program possesses many features that align with what we know to be true about how students learn best. Our leaders knew when they launched the program that aligning it to the National Standards for Quality (NSQ) would ensure that we created a strong program. Additionally, we wanted to learn from and with our peers in the field, so we sought out organizations such as the Digital Learning Collaborative and Quality Matters (QM) and actively engage with them and their activities.

What are the benefits of having a 100 percent online education? What has the reception been like with students and parents since your organization began?

Our students have a variety of factors that make an online education the best fit for them. One thing they all have in common is that they enjoy the flexibility that an online program offers, and the learning management system and course design aligns with how they learn best. Low Country Virtual is a competency-based program meaning that we allow students multiple opportunities to master the learning objectives. Additionally, we ensure alignment between the written, taught and assessed curriculum. There are supports built into our program all along the way, and positive student learning outcomes is our ultimate goal.

Our students and families love Low Country Virtual, lovingly called LCV. The reception has been great!

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Low Country Virtual illustrates the difference between asynchronous and synchronous learning for students and parents to understand.

How many students are taking advantage of your organization?

Our enrollments have ranged from approximately 200 to over 700 students at times. We still think we are one of our state’s best kept secrets and strive to get the word out about our work.

How did your work with educators and schools change since schools shifted online due to the pandemic? How have things changed since schools are back to in-person instruction?

We like to distinguish what occurred at the beginning of the pandemic from what online learning should really be. When schools had to immediately close and shift during the spring of 2020, that really was emergency remote learning in most cases and not true high-quality online learning. That is the reason our district leaders sought to establish Low Country Virtual. They wanted to shift from emergency remote learning to the best practices that have been identified by organizations like NSQ and QM.

Learning management systems, digital content and online schools and programs can be powerful tools that can serve students not only in a crisis, but also each and every day. While schools are back to a face-to-face setting, hopefully, we will have learned much during the pandemic and can maximize the use of these tools in a brick and mortar classroom.

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Low Country Virtual’s digital flyer describing the roles and responsibilities of a learning coach.

How has CourseArc played a role in your ability to support students, schools and educators?

CourseArc has played a pivotal role in enhancing our ability to provide comprehensive support to students, schools, and educators. By leveraging CourseArc’s powerful platform, we’ve been able to seamlessly design and execute courses while incorporating industry best practices from both NSQ and QM.

This platform has significantly streamlined our course design and implementation processes, rendering them more accessible and user-friendly than ever before. CourseArc empowers us to effortlessly integrate interactivity strategies, rich instructional materials and robust assessments, thus, enriching the overall learning experience. Additionally, CourseArc equips us with the tools to align courses with precision and make necessary adjustments in a straightforward manner.

We are truly delighted to have the capability to create courses that are not only easily navigable but also interactive, all while aligning seamlessly with the Quality Matters Rubric. CourseArc has undeniably elevated our ability to support the educational journey of students, schools and educators.

How do you hope to continue to engage audiences digitally with your digital resources?

It is our goal to continue to design and develop high-quality online courses to be shared across our partner districts.

What advice would you give to other organizations seeking to develop online content?

We encourage organizations to engage in membership organizations such as Quality Matters and the Digital Learning Collaborative. Learn from and with others in the field, and collaborate and share as much as you can. There is tremendous wisdom in the field. None of us is as smart as all of us.

For more information about Low Country Virtual, please visit www.lowcountryvirtual.org.

CourseArc, a content authoring and management system (CAMS) was built to support organizations as they facilitate the collaborative creation of engaging and accessible online learning. Check out our resource site to see how we can help your team. Check back to our blog and social media feeds for additional resources and case studies on how our clients are using CourseArc to move their classrooms online. 

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