Virtual teaching is becoming an integral part of school districts across the state, so will this be the new reality for Utah students?
With only one teacher needed to teach hundreds of students via webcams and live interactive broadcasting, are teachers' careers in jeopardy?
Those in the education field certainly see instruction headed in that direction, but not at the expense of teachers' careers and students' education.
The Utah State Office of Education sees the capabilities of virtual instruction as a bonus to teaching programs already in place, especially for schools in rural areas that may not have access to enough qualified teachers, said Rick Gaisford, education technology specialist for the Utah State Office of Education.
"We all know that one key element of a successful education is good teachers, so we are always going to need them," he said.
"With interactive video-conferencing, we can send (teachers) around the state, maximizing the impact of really dynamic teachers to train others in the same content area for a richer experience."
For example, one school may teach a specialized course that is not available somewhere else. That school could broadcast its class to other schools, therefore reaching a larger number of students.
In other instances, students could take a virtual field trip to a number of locations.
The Utah Education Network, in partnership with the Utah State Office of Education, oversees the video-conferencing program throughout the state.
Rich Finlinson, public information manager at the Utah Education Network, said all school districts in Utah have interactive video-conferencing capabilities.
Some of those capabilities may include broadcasts between high schools or live broadcasts from college-level courses.
Interactive video-conferencing may be the wave of the future for Utah schools, but it comes with a hefty price tag -- and for now, Davis School District has chosen to take a step back.
The district has interactive video-conferencing capabilities, but given recent budget cuts and the prospect of even more, district officials have decided not to pursue the interactive video-conferencing program.
Instead, the money saved will be used in more critical areas, said Chris Williams, district community relations director.
Other factors were also considered when the decision was made to step back from the program.
"There is a difference between someone who is in front of the class interacting with students as opposed to in front of a camera. That is a whole different way of teaching," Williams said.
"There may be schools out there who love interactive conferencing and have found it to be something that works for them, but at this point, we have found it not worthwhile for the district to continue the interactive video-conferencing classes."
Although the district does not participate, one school in Davis County is taking advantage of the interactive video-conferencing capabilities offered by the state.
Some students at Legacy Preparatory Academy's secondary campus in Woods Cross have the chance to attend Utah Valley University classes that are broadcast live through video conferencing, which is set up and operated by the Utah Education Network.
Microphones sit in front of the charter school's students so they can ask questions and be fully engaged in the college course.
Stephanie Eccles, director of concurrent enrollment at Legacy Preparatory Academy, arranged the contract with UVU.
When Eccles' son enrolled at the University of Utah a few years ago for his engineering degree, he learned that some of his credits from AP test scores and concurrent enrollment classes at two Davis County high schools only transferred into elective courses.
That meant he would have to retake some classes and pay the tuition fees.
"In terms of our son, the advantage of concurrent enrollment was not as big a deal as we thought," said Richard Eccles.
The Eccles decided to make sure that did not happen to their daughter, who is now attending Legacy Preparatory Academy.
With a one-time $35 fee paid to UVU, the virtual classes offered at the school allow students to receive an associate degree from UVU and give them the opportunity to apply for the Century Scholarship, awarded to students who complete their associate degree by June of their senior year of high school.
"Our students can academically experience the excitement and rigor of a college class right here in a safe atmosphere, with kids their own age, and get the best of both worlds," Eccles said.
"They can still be a silly 15-year-old kid and be a part of the high school scene, in addition to receiving the college benefit."
An added benefit of the program is receiving instruction directly from a college professor, unlike some concurrent enrollment programs where the class is taught by a qualified high school teacher.
Hevynn Heimuli, a junior at Legacy Academy Preparatory, is taking advantage of the virtual classes offered at the charter school.
"It is a good opportunity for me to kick-start my education, and I love to learn new things at the same time."
Other students participating in the program see it as a 2-for-1 deal.
"This is a really good chance to work harder and be able to use my time more wisely," said Danielle Gehring, a junior at Legacy Academy Preparatory.
Danielle wants to become a pediatrician. Attending the college classes virtually while in high school means it could take her less time than normal after high school to finish her medical education.
Although virtual teaching is becoming a reality in schools across the state, for now, parents and students in the Top of Utah still have many options available to them without the new technology taking over current education procedures.