News From The Nest

What's Going On In The World Of VLA

October 30, 2020

LISD Vision: All of our students enjoy thriving, productive lives in a future they create

LISD Mission: Students, staff, and community design and implement a learning organization that provides engaging innovative experiences every day.

Virtual Learning Academy Mission: Foster independent learning by guiding and supporting all students in a flexible and innovative online framework.

Greetings from “The Nest”

It is amazing to me how fast this school year is going. It seems like yesterday when we first were all trying to figure out all of the options needed and available this school year. And yes, it is not getting any easier. That being said, with repetition, we are starting to see some familiarity.

Two weeks ago, we transitioned into Fall 2 which means that some of you are new to VLA having just joined us while others are well seasoned in the VLA online experience. So, I would like to provide a few tips and reminders.

  1. VLA is LISD's online academy serving online courses to the District and beyond since 2007. We have nearly 30 courses in our catalog and are continuing to develop more.
  2. Our courses are asynchronous and authorized by the Texas Education Agency through TXVSN and therefore do NOT require the same daily attendance requirements that the temporary online classes require that were set up to address needs created by COVID-19. That being said, best learning happens with frequent activity. In addition, our classes are not self-paced. Students do have deadlines, they are just not daily deadlines. Students have more agency in when and where they do their work.
  3. While the classes are asynchronous, students have teachers who want to work with them. Classes have periodic live sessions using WebEX to cover course mechanics as well as special topics. In addition, our teachers are only an email, phone call, WebEX session away. Students are encouraged to reach out any time they have questions.
  4. It is important that students plan their week. While you may be required to attend your other classes daily, you do have flexibility in when you plan to do your work for VLA classes. However, without a plan, it is easy to put the work on the back burner which will not work out well in the end. You need to look at the work for each week and make a plan as to when you will work on your courses.
  5. PARENTS and STUDENTS- About GRADES: Because VLA classes are taken at multiple paces at the same time by students across LISD and nearly 30 other districts across Texas, we are NOT able to sync grades with Skyward. This means that Canvas is our official gradebook. In Canvas you will be able to see all of your grades on individual assignments as well as comments on work and your cumulative grade.
  6. PARENTS: If you like to see how your students are doing at any time, please consider becoming a parent observer in Canvas.You will find information on how to set up your Canvas account and link it to your child at the bottom of this newsletter.

Important Grading Period Information
The next grading period for LISD ends next Friday on November 6. It is important that you are on pace and have submitted all of your required work before that date. We find that most students who struggle with grades in VLA do so because of missing work and lack of engagement. Please make a big push this weekend and next week to get your work completed.


Dr. Chris Bigenho

Director of VLA

Online Anytime sets VLA Apart

The word “virtual” dominates many conversations these days, and most people tend to define virtual as “not being real.” Students who have completed Virtual Learning Academy courses can verify that the learning is real, is happening online, and is occurring at times not dictated by the school day.

Since 2007 the Virtual Learning Academy (VLA) has utilized online learning platforms (originally Moodle and now Canvas) to deliver content to students in Lewisville ISD and throughout Texas. VLA offers courses that are completely developed and created by district design teams, but it takes approximately two years to create and launch a course. Because of the amount of time involved to fully develop a course, VLA has also leveraged third-party content that serves as the “online textbook” for some courses. But that’s only the beginning.

VLA sets itself apart from other online options because our courses are intentionally designed containing value-added interactive experiences, even in courses leveraging third-party content. VLA teachers have completed professional development hours for online teaching, and they understand the importance of building community and fostering collaboration in the online classroom. VLA students have the opportunity to learn in groups, to access online content and activities during a time that works with the student’s schedule, and to attend teacher-led tutoring sessions. VLA students value the flexibility of taking our courses because the VLA option allows students to succeed academically while following their passions.

VLA takes pride in being part of the solution for students who need a learning option other than face-to-face instruction. VLA teachers work to establish relationships with their students so those students will know that, while they are not meeting face-to-face, their VLA teacher cares about them and wants to see them achieve. A student in a VLA class is more than just a name and an ID#.

What sets VLA apart from other online options is the partnership with students and parents to help student learners achieve academic success. Because it matters to them, it matters to us.

Carolyn Mitchell is a Virtual Learning Academy Specialist who specializes in course design and accessibility and leads VLA course design teams. Carolyn is also a VLA adjunct teacher currently teaching Personal Financial Literacy.

Tips for Overcoming Procrastination

Counselor’s Corner

From the desk of Dr. Romona Thomas- VLA Counselor

Online can have a major advantage because of its flexibility. However, flexibility doesn’t mean less effort. You still want to perform at your maximum level so that you can be successful in your academic journey.

1. Remember to always create a schedule and be loyal to that schedule. It is important to incorporate study time and task completion time for online learning so alleviate procrastination and anxiety.

2. Because you have the flexibility with online learning it is imperative that you put forth effort and be disciplined to complete coursework. When you push these tasks off, procrastination can become a major issue which often leads to not performing on the level that you desire.

3. Don’t waste the opportunity of on-line learning and the flexibility that it creates for you. Your expectations and standards should be the same as if you were in class. Remember there is flexibility but the learning, understanding, and succeeding are still the desired outcome.

Below are a few videos that may be helpful with online learning.


Become a Parent Observer in Canvas

As a parent of a student taking classes in Lewisville ISD's Virtual Learning Academy, you can become an observer in any of your student's Canvas Classes. Canvas is our Learning Management System (LMS) and is our door to the learning experience that is VLA. By becoming a parent observer, you will be paired with your child and can then see their individual grades as well as the pacing guides and schedule of work they need to accomplish. This can be helpful as you take on the role of success coach for your child helping them to plan ahead. To become a parent observer, simply follow the instructions posted here.

Lewisville ISD Virtual Learning Academy

VLA Est. 2007 and growing every day...

Learn how you can join the VLA family and add flexibility to your high school schedule.

Call: 972-350-1870


Director: Chris Bigenho, PhD

Dir. Email: