Virtual classrooms: Online education is changing school hours, buildings, interactions — from / The Grand Rapids Press by Dave Murray

Online education gathered steam in the past decade. But in the next 10 years, experts predict, it will have a profound influence on every aspect of education.

The size and shape of buildings. The hours they operate. The types of interaction students have with teachers and classmates — whether across the room or across the state.

“We’re finally reaching the tipping point,” said Jamey Fitzpatrick, president of Michigan Virtual University, which provides online courses to students in 400 districts, including in West Michigan. “Right now, we’re just scratching the surface. We will soon be able to transform every child’s education.”

About a quarter of all students will be enrolled in Internet-based classes within five years, and at least half of all high school classes will be offered through computers before the next decade ends, national experts predict.