Editor’s Note: This blog is available in Spanish also .
Aprendizaje virtual, educación en el hogar, aprendizaje híbrido – ¿cuál es la diferencia?

When schools across Arizona closed in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic it was tough on everyone. While the hardships varied, it’s safe to say that no one was prepared for or particularly enjoyed the experience. The majority of us simply tried to make the best of a less than ideal situation.

For many families and educators, last spring was their first introduction to alternate educational delivery models, but it is important to know that last spring was an emergency response, and not what optimized virtual learning, home schooling or hybrid models look like.

Learning opportunities provided by our public schools and the expectations of students will be different than this past spring. Using lessons learned from the spring, educators and school leaders have been working to build plans that support the success of all students moving forward.

As we head into the 2020-21 school year, we thought it would be helpful to offer a glossary of sorts to help students, parents and caregivers better understand the various education delivery methods.

  • In-Person Learning: Also called Face-to-Face Learning or On-Campus Learning
    • While this speaks to the traditional model of students in a classroom with a teacher, expect in-person learning to look different as measures are being taken to prioritize the health and safety of students, teachers and staff. This could include smaller class sizes, students remaining in one classroom all day, different classroom layouts, etc.


  • Virtual Learning: Also called iSchool, Distance Learning, Remote Learning, Online Learning, e-Learning, Digital Learning, Online Academy, Digital Academy, Virtual Academy, or Arizona Online Instruction (AOI)
    • There are two variations of this model. One that is a stand-alone Virtual School, and one that is temporary due to physical closures of school. Both have similar characteristics:
      • Students engaged in virtual learning are not physically together in a classroom. They’re learning through internet-based delivery.
      • In some cases, this instruction is online, but not live. Students may be reviewing posted assignments, watching pre-recorded videos, submitting homework, etc. Students are often able to complete work on their own time as opposed to following a typical school-day schedule.
      • In other instances, the instruction might be live in real-time with their teacher. For example, via Google Hangout or a Zoom meeting. This might be one-on-one, with a small group of students or the entire class. In addition, students may be instructed on occasion to work with other classmates using virtual platforms. In the case of real-time instruction students obviously have specific times of day in which they need to be online.
      • In still other instances, students participate in online learning on their own schedule using quality educational materials and receive virtual or in-person instructional support from teachers as needed. Students work through curriculum and lesson plans at whatever pace works for them.
      • Teachers may utilize a combination of both real-time and pre-recorded lessons.
    • Some school districts have offered students a full-time Virtual School option for several years. In a stand-alone Virtual School, staff are dedicated to teach online only programs to a cohort of students who have chosen this model. Leaving such a program mid-year would be similar to changing schools.
      • During the pandemic, school districts may allow transfer from a Virtual School to a physical school at the end of a quarter, a semester, or not until the end of the year.
    • In the case of temporary Virtual Learning, a student’s regular classroom teacher provides the virtual learning opportunities to students. When it is safe to return to in-person learning, the virtual option ends and the teacher returns to the classroom with students.


  • Flex-LearningAlso called a Hybrid Schedule/Model, or A/B Schedule.
    • These are largely models created to address concerns related to COVID-19. One example of this model implements a mix of in-person and virtual classes that could allow for social distancing with smaller cohorts of students together in class at one time.
      • In this scenario, students might be on an A/B schedule where they attend school physically on some days and virtually on other days.
    • This may also refer to a model that pivots between virtual learning and in-person learning based on public health concerns. For example, schools are currently not allowed to open for in-person learning until August 17. If COVID-19 case numbers remain very high, it is conceivable that health experts could recommend pushing that date later.
      • In this scenario, students will start the school year on time via Virtual Learning with options to transition back to In-Person Learning when that option is available.
      • This transition between an in-person and virtual deliver may be implemented if there is a need to temporarily close a school due to an outbreak. Schools would allow students to transition back as soon as In-Person Learning is allowed. Again, expect new health and safety measures to be in place.


  • Homebound
    • There are specific state laws pertaining to homebound students (here and here).
    • These students are those who are capable of benefitting from academic instruction but are unable to attend school due to illness, disease, accident, pregnancy, chronic or acute health problems, or handicapped conditions, who have been examined by a competent medical doctor and are certified by the doctor as being unable to attend regular classes for a period of not less than three school months (ARS 15-901 (14)).
    • These students also receive educational services and instruction from a school or school district, but that instruction takes place in the student’s home.
    • Depending on the student’s needs, this could include a combination of virtual and in-person services, or strictly in-person, but all learning takes place at home.


  • Homeschooling
    • There are specific state laws pertaining to homeschooling.
    • For children age 6 to 16, parents are required to file an Affidavit of Intent to Homeschool with their County School Superintendent.
    • Arizona Families for Homeschool Education offers a great deal of information, including details about state law. Additional information can also be found on many County Superintendent’s websites.
    • Homeschooling is best defined as parent-led, privately funded education of a child at home.
    • A parent (or another caregiver) takes full responsibility, including financial responsibility, for educating their children, rather than sending them to a school.
    • Parents handle curriculum, teaching and ensuring that their children learn what they need to. Homeschoolers must educate their children in at least the required subjects of reading, grammar, math, science and social studies.
    • Arizona state law says that all school districts and charter schools shall develop policies and procedures for providing special education to all children with disabilities within the district or charter school, including private schooled and home schooled children.
    • A homeschool student is exempt from standardized testing requirements.
    • There are no reporting requirements for homeschooled students and the parent or caregiver providing instruction does not need to be a certified teacher.
    • The parent creates the high school transcript and issues a diploma to their child.
    • Children instructed at home are allowed to participate in interscholastic activities offered by their local school district.


  • Other Distance Learning Delivery Models
    • Some students who do not have access to internet and do not have the ability to attend school in person might be provided a set of materials (or packets) to be completed by the student and reviewed by a teacher.
    • These students would still be considered enrolled in the school district and their work will be graded by the teacher.