Category Archives: Trends in Digital Learning

IVS Guest Blog Post: Nancy A. Hinnen – Heart of Illinois United Way


Illinois Virtual prides itself on forming partnerships to enhance and transform education for students and professionals. We believe we can achieve more together than we can alone. Through intentional and purposeful collaboration, we can elevate our educational communities beyond what a single entity can accomplish individually.

Below is a guest blog post from one of our partners, Heart of Illinois United Way. We thank you for our partnership and appreciate all you do to support and empower others to continuously improve.

Guest Blog Post

By Nancy A. Hinnen, Success By 6 Program Coordinator; Heart of Illinois United Way


Illinois Virtual School has our heads “in the clouds” with the launch of Math: Right from the Start Live Stream Professional Development! Heart of Illinois United Way Success By 6 just completed the winter/spring 2019 semester course using an Adobe Connect platform that was created and managed through Illinois Virtual School. The live professional development was held at SAL Child Care Connection in Peoria, IL and was streamed to Tazewell-Woodford Head Start in East Peoria, IL. Along with the live training using a web camera and PowerPoint presentation, demonstration video clips on how to use instructional materials were dropped into the presentation. Illinois Virtual School also coordinated group interaction between host sites using Snowball microphones and also imported photos of each site’s work into the virtual instruction so participants could share “live” comments/reflections on strategies learned within minutes of creating them. Amazing!

Funded through PNC Foundation, Math: Right from the Start provides a blended model of face-to-face and online professional development, e-coaching, and support materials that equip early childhood educators to implement research-validated, cognitively appropriate mathematical thinking strategies that enhance early math foundational skills. Illinois Virtual School has served as the online vendor since the course was created in 2013. The online portion of the course includes instructional videos, handouts and resources that are easily accessed when participants enroll in the course.  Upon completion of the course, “graduates” have continuous access to the original course content as well as any updated/new instructional materials. Illinois Virtual School participates in course planning meetings, creates the online platforms, attends orientation to help participants enroll online, manages online hours of participation, manages the live-stream professional development, and provides professional development certificates upon course completion. The role of Illinois Virtual School is essential for the success of the online and live-stream professional development!

Our vision is to reach larger audiences of early childhood educators so together we can enhance early math thinking . . . Right from the Start! Results from a 2018 research study funded through the PNC Ruby K. Worner Charitable Trust showed that preschool children in classrooms of teachers who participated in Math: Right from the Start had overall early math foundational growth of 8.32 correct responses whereas students of teachers who did not participate in Math: Right from the Start had overall early math foundational growth of 2.04 correct responses. (Wolffe, Nugent, Antola Crowe, 2018). Therefore, students of teachers who participate in Math: Right from the Start show statistically significant growth compared to those students of teachers who do not participate in Math: Right from the Start.

We applaud Illinois Virtual School for embracing the importance of early math thinking. Thank you for collaborating on behalf of giving teachers and their student’s foundational math skills for school success!

Three Generations of Illinois Virtual School Directors. – Kip Pygman

Three Generations of Illinois Virtual School Directors

Last week I attended the inaugural Digital Learning Conference, DLAC. It was a jammed-pack three days filled with the attendees exploring, disseminating research, news, and best practices in online learning including the effective use of technology in education.

When hundreds of professionals who share a similar passion toward a common interest gather under one roof, the level of excitement and desire to grow together is vastly profound. This was no different at the first ever DLAC Conference and an experience I encourage more professionals to attend.

While attending the conference, I had the privilege of collaborating with the past directors of Illinois Virtual–see the picture below. Mr. Matthew Wicks was the first director of Illinois Virtual including from 2001-2009 followed by Ms. Cindy Hamblin leading the program until her retirement in 2018. How special it was to stand with our past directors and reflect upon how much IL Virtual has accomplished on behalf of our students and virtual education as a whole across our great state! I thank Matt and Cindy for their leadership, vision, and unwavering support toward the advancement and growth of online learning.

3 Generations

Our conversation included differences, challenges, and opportunities related to the particular time and landscape that each director was leading the program. However, two constants existed which all three of us shared:

  • The profound passion, commitment, genuine care, and exceptional quality of our instructors.
  • The positive opportunities virtual schooling affords thousands of students across Illinois.

Expanding further on the two points above, at IL Virtual, we have near 70 part-time teachers including the majority who also serve full-time at their local middle or high school right here in our home state. They combine the value and experience gained from their face-to-face teaching experiences with an educational technology skill set that results in an innovative, enriching learning environment for kids.

We pride ourselves on delivering online options which meet the same level of rigor we all expect for students taking classes on-campus. Did you know over 90% of our teachers hold a Master’s Degree including 15% who are Nationally Board Certified? We pride ourselves on creating a family-like atmosphere where our teachers know one another as people first and share in a mutual desire to grow and learn together professionally. Did you know our teachers have been with us on average for eight years including some who have been with us since our inception in 2001? IL Virtual is a special place where teachers who reside across every geographic area of our state join together for a singular goal: To do what is best for our students who just happen to be online learners!

Whether a student desires the online experience for flexibility, accelerated learning, enhanced autonomy, access to a course not offered locally or a multitude of other reasons, our teams are ready and excited to serve students. We recognize each enrollment is unique and each learner has a different path traveling from their Point A to their Point B including their future college and career aspirations.

Personally, I get chills imagining the world of possibility for students when they are presented with such a vast array of educational choices–such as face-to-face, blended, or online. These options provide today’s students with the ability to choose the style of learning that best accommodates their needs at any given point in time.

Last year, IL Virtual served students across 215 districts spanning hundreds of schools. We look forward to continuing working with these districts, future new partners, students, and families by providing them with a virtual learning option. Together, we will pursue the positive difference we all aspire to achieve for our students.

Looking forward to DLAC 2020 and another conversation with Matt and Cindy!


Kip Pygman, Director

Illinois Virtual School is Providing AP Courses to Rural High Schools Through a Pilot Program Sponsored by the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council.

The Governor’s Rural Affairs Council (GRAC), in cooperation with IVS, has launched a pilot program which offers AP Courses to students in rural Illinois High Schools. Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, who chairs the GRAC, unveiled the project earlier this month in news conferences at a few of the participating schools.

This initial program is offering AP U.S. Government and Politics to 75 students from 10 high schools from throughout the State of Illinois. The schools chosen for the program have limited, or no, AP options available for their students. Lt. Governor Sanguinetti stressed the importance of AP courses because “they improve college readiness and help students get into their preferred institutions”. AP courses also provide college credit if students earn a score of 3 or higher on the AP Exam.

The high schools participating in the program are Altamont, Kankakee, Knoxville, Illini Central, Tri-Point, Pope County, Orangeville, Quincy, Central A&M, and Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Check out the map below to see where these schools are located.