Initially created for professionals working in military child and youth care and education programs, the Virtual Lab School (VLS) is designed to support all child and youth care and education professionals as they build their knowledge and skills around research-based practices. The VLS engages learners by embedding interactive learning activities within online content. By combining opportunities for reflective practice and one-on-one interactions between learners and coaches, the VLS seeks to positively impact how professionals approach their work with children and families each and every day.
Virtual Lab School training content and resources address six professional audiences including center- and home-based care providers, as well as coaching and management staff by providing 'track-based' courses tailored to each role. Foundational Courses are available in these professional Tracks: Infant & Toddler, Preschool, School-Age, Family Child Care, Training & Curriculum Specialist and Management. Courses within each Track are aligned with the Child Development Associate (CDA) competencies and NAEYC, NAFCC, and CYD-AYD standards (See Track Overview).
A comprehensive approach that includes quality practices at all levels within early childhood care and education programs, the 15 VLS Foundational Courses are coordinated across all six professional Tracks to support the many functional roles in child and youth care settings. The 15 Foundational Courses align with the 13 Functional Areas of the Child Development Associate. Two additional courses address preventing, identifying, and reporting child abuse. (See Course Overview) Registered VLS users may earn certification in each of the Foundational Courses by logging in and using the progress tracking, assessment, and oversight features (See User Registration).
In addition, specialized training materials and resources are available in our ‘Focused Topics’ courses, which are track-independent, and available to all professional audiences. Focused Topics are typically shorter than Foundational Courses, and are suitable for a variety of audiences. Current Focused Topics course offerings are listed on the Focused Topics page.
All Virtual Lab School courses are divided into several lessons. Each lesson covers one or more topics relevant to the overall course competency area. Lessons contain a variety of materials from which to master a course subject including text, images, videos, activities, opportunities to connect with trainers and coaches, program tools, guides, glossaries, references and resources, and a brief self-assessment of learning. For more in-depth information about lesson content and structure, please see Lesson Overview.
Each VLS direct-care Foundational Course on the Virtual lab school also contains an End of Course Assessment (EOCA). An EOCA is comprised of a series of short-answer and essay-based questions designed to assess mastery of key course concepts.(See End Of Course Assessment for more information).
Along with the EOCA, each direct care foundational course on the Virtual Lab School contains a Competency Reflection. Competency Reflections offer both a tool for self-reflection and a tool to assess and document observed competency. (See Competency Reflection for more information).
In order to help all users easily navigate course requirements, every Virtual Lab School course contains a Course Guide which provides a complete list of activities and resources available in each lesson. From the Course Guide, VLS account users can directly access and print activities and resources as well as that course’s affiliated Competency Reflection. (See Course Guide for more information).
Direct care staff who complete the VLS in one Track, and then later move to work with another age-group may use the Crosswalk as a guide to aid in their transition. The Crosswalk identifies unique age-specific content, activities, and resources by course and lesson and can be used as a guide for specific areas within the VLS that require additional review (See Crosswalk for more information).