Pearson, a London-based educational company, currently teaches 65,000 students across the US using online courses. Now, a virtual Spanish A-level could be introduced to UK schools in September (stock)
The first ever 'virtual' language A-level could launch in the UK in September.
The Spanish qualification will do away with the need for teachers in the classroom, and instead use iPads and computers to deliver lessons.
Advocates say it is a cheap way to deal with teachers shortages, but unions warn that the standard of online education is still poor compared with traditional classes.
The A-level is being provided by Pearson, an educational provider from London that currently teaches 65,000 primary and secondary-aged students in the US online.
Sharon Hague, Pearson's senior vice-president for schools, told the Times Educational Supplement that the company was interested in bringing virtual courses to the UK.
This could help schools 'manage their time and budgets' and maintain 'the breadth of their curriculum'.
She said: 'It would provide the school with course content, structure and some of the delivery with a view to enabling schools to maintain the breadth of their curriculum.'
The courses are supervised by teaching assistants, but do not require a teacher to be present.
Much like regular A-levels, the course will involve five hours of 'contact time' a week.
One hour will be delivered by a fully-qualified Pearson teacher in small-groups and the other four will involve students working though 'guided interactive and engaging learning resources'.
Pearson is launching its Spanish A-level in September but is hoping to launch other subjects in the near future including Maths, Physics and French (stock)
Virtual learning environments and digital aids have been common in schools for a long time and Malcome Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders told the MailOnline that they are 'best suited to compliment and supplement existing methods.'
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union told the MailOnline: 'Digital tech is rapidly changing how young people experience and engage with their world.
'Virtual teaching and automation are unlikely ever to be able to replace teachers or support staff.
'It has changed how teachers communicate with each other, share resources and exchange ideas their subject.'
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of National Education Union, said that while integrating online elements into lessons could prove to be 'useful', she remained sceptical about virtual courses.
'The evidence over the last 10 years is that the highly inflated claims about online learning have not come to reality,' she told Tes.
'What's been consistently found is that the actual standards achieved, and the progress of people just involved in only online learning, is very slow and very low.'
Pearson said it had received interest in the courses from schools and sixth forms from all over the country.
Unions warn that although virtual teaching aids can aid and assist teachers and students, there is no substitute for a traditional relationship between pupil and teacher and that teachers will have to adapt (stock)
Mr Courtney told MailOnline that although automation and technology plays a greater role in education now than ever before, teachers need to adapt.
'Teachers need to be constantly flexible - no lesson ever goes to plan.
'Teaching, and learning, relies on relationships - between humans, and not machines. Children learn when they feel safe and included and providing that learning environment is a very human skill.'
Schools and the government are pushing to increase modern languages education in schools but are finding a severe shortage of language teachers.
Mr Trobe said that the supply chain from GCSE to A-level through to higher education is dwindling.
'Since modern languages were made non-compulsory, and less students are entering school, the base of the pyramid is narrowing and the climb is becoming steeper,' Mr Trobe said.