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Virtual High School Program Opens Up Vast Array Of Courses To Connecticut Students

By JULIE STAGIS

March 16, 2012

Science-fiction movies often portray the future classroom as students facing a hologram of a teacher. The need for physical togetherness is obsolete.

Although traditional classrooms are still alive and kicking, students in 80 schools across the state have another option that opens up numerous course options and connects them with students from around the country and the world Virtual High School.

Avon, Coventry and Hartford schools have recently joined the program. There are 679 participating schools in 33 states and 34 countries, according to the VHS website.

In exchange for the school freeing up a teacher to teach a virtual class, 20 students per semester are able to choose from more than 400 courses for credit.

In Canton, Tom Moran teaches a section of American Popular Music. The Massachusetts-based nonprofit collaborative offers everything from advanced science and math courses to a class called "Bad Boys in Literature" and Chinese language courses.

"It just expands the opportunity for students to further their interest in courses that we just don't have, and it allows them to pursue their interests further," said Jordan Grossman, assistant superintendent of Canton schools, where the program has been offered for four years. "And being a small school, there are some electives that we just can't offer."

This year, 23 Canton students take virtual classes, and the numbers grow each year, Grossman said.

"Taking classes from teachers across the country just opens up their world to what's outside of Canton," he said.

Each school has a trained program coordinator, and though each school has freedom over how they run the program, schools are encouraged to dedicate a class period for VHS students, according to spokeswoman Carol Arnold.

"These classes require a lot of work. We like them to have time in their schedule," Arnold said. "There is homework, additional work. They're not correspondence classes."

Students in a particular online class don't all meet online at the same time, but they're required to participate in discussion threads and group projects, and assignments have definitive due dates.

Avon has 10 to 12 students in the program's first year, said Jane Ellen Peregrin, director of school counseling at Avon High. They're all in a lab taking their classes during a scheduled class period with the advisor.

"It's fulfilling a purpose that we need it for," Peregrin said. "It's enriching and enhancing course offerings, and allowing students to take courses that are of interest to them, from AP classes to a student interested in art who is taking an art history class."

Peregrin said the school is grateful for the opportunity to participate.

"In comparison to other schools, we may be limited sometimes in what we can offer, and this allows students to challenge themselves," she said. "I think it's wonderful."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
     
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