Tech & Science dictionary

virtual school

[ vur-choo-uhl skool ]

What does virtual school mean?

Virtual school refers to an educational program that takes place in a virtual environment—most typically on a computer screen. 

Virtual school can also refer to a specific school that provides instruction using such programs, as in My daughter attends a virtual school

Example: My kids are starting the year with virtual school, but if they can’t go back for in-person class soon, I’m going to lose my virtual mind.

Looking for some educational activities? Check out Parent and Teacher Center for a wealth of resources.

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🏫 School emoji, 🍎 Red Apple emoji, 🎒 Backpack emoji, Zoom mom

Information about virtual school

Virtual school can take different forms. It may consist of a conventional classroom scenario simply moved online in the form of a live, two-way video stream in which a teacher and their students can interact in real time. It can also consist of a less interactive model, in which students can access educational materials through a computer interface, often with occasional communication with an instructor. Or it can be a blend of these approaches.

The different senses of virtual school reflect the different meanings of the words virtual and school. In a phrase like virtual reality, virtual is used to describe a completely simulated environment. More recently, the word has come to be used to mean something like “remote and via the internet” (especially when accessed via a live video feed), as in virtual meeting and virtual concert. This is how virtual is most commonly used in virtual school.

The word school commonly refers to an institution that provides instruction or the building where it takes place, but it can also refer to a program of instruction, or formal education in general, as in My kids need the structure of school. The phrase virtual school can use either of these senses—it can refer to a specific institution or to an instruction program. 

Virtual school is a very flexible term that’s certain to continue evolving. It’s meaning may overlap with many other similar terms, including online school, online education, online learning, remote education, remote learning, and distance learning.

Want to know more? Read our Vocab Builder on homeschool.

Examples of virtual school

will never get over the fact that every adult human I know finds zoom work meetings utterly exhausting, yet many districts are forcing kids (regardless of age or need) to do that ALL DAY LONG in virtual school (webcams on, or you're marked absent)
@nicolesjchung, August 27, 2020
The TDSB says it intends to provide remote learning this fall through a centralized "virtual school" rather than from students' individual neighbourhood schools, prompting concerns that children out of class since March will be further isolated.
@CBCToronto, August 19. 2020
What I keep telling my kids as they adjust to virtual school: *I’m so impressed! You are adapting so well to this big change. *I can see you’re trying your best, and I’m really proud of you. *It’s totally natural that you feel a little cooked. Go relax. You’re doing great.
@maggiesmithpoet, August 25, 2020

More context on virtual school

The term virtual school in reference to a kind of simulated classroom first began to be used with some frequency around the mid-1990s. At the time, such references were often theoretical—predictions of what would be possible with advances in technology. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, technology had advanced, and the phrase virtual school came to be used to mean a school (often a private or charter school) offering some or all of its educational programs online. The terms online school and cyber school began to become more popular, especially to refer to institutions that allowed students to learn outside of a physical classroom using online materials. Eventually, some colleges and universities adopted virtual or online classes in which students could learn by watching recorded or live video lectures and communicating with the instructor remotely, such as through email. 

Use of the phrase virtual school became more widespread in 2020, when many schools were forced to halt in-person education due to quarantine measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, the phrase started to become more commonly used to refer to educational programs attempting to move the conventional classroom experience online, at least partially. Virtual school may be synchronous, meaning the teacher and students interact in real time, typically using a two-way video streaming program to create a virtual classroom. Or it may be asynchronous, meaning the students review materials, such as texts or pre-recorded videos, on their own schedule. It can also be a blend of the two.

What are some synonyms for virtual school?

  • online school
  • online education
  • distance learning
  • online learning
  • remote education
  • remote learning

What are some words that share a root or word element with virtual school

What are some words that often get used in discussing virtual school?

Try using virtual school!

Which of the following terms can be used as a synonym of virtual school?

A. remote education
B. distance learning
C. online school
D. all of the above

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of virtual school like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of virtual school that will help our users expand their word mastery.