Document Type


Publication Date



The history of online learning at the K-12 level is almost as long as its history at the post-secondary level, with the first virtual school programs beginning in the early 1990s. While these opportunities were designed as a way to provide rural students with access to more specialized courses, as opportunities have become organized into virtual or cyber schools the nature of students served by these institutions have broadened. Unlike online learning in general, much less is known about virtual schooling – even less of which is based on systematic research. Regardless, the growth and practice of virtual schooling has far out-paced the production of reliable and valid research. This paper will focus upon describing the evolution of K-12 online learning in Canada and the United States, how that evolution has impacted rural schools, and what lessons can be learned from the experiences with K-12 online learning in these two countries.


Keynote Paper from the 2010 Annual SPERA Conference, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Published: Barbour, Michael K. "The Promise and the Reality: Exploring Virtual Schooling in Rural Jurisdictions." Education in Rural Australia 21.1 (2011): 1-19.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.