teaching and learning, working and playing--in the 21st century
Friday, August 06, 2010
From Metro Nashville Public Schools News 08-06-2010
MNPS Virtual High School: A new era in education
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Aug 6, 2010) – Imagine the day that all 22 credits needed for high school graduation could be earned in a student’s own time, a time when students will be able to learn at their own pace earning credits based on mastery not seat time. Metro Nashville Public Schools is excited to say that day is here thanks to the district’s new Virtual High School.
“Virtual High School will open so many doors for so many students,” said Executive Director of Instructional Technology Dr. Kecia Ray. “We will now be able to meet students where they are on their path to finish high school on time and provide options for students where the traditional school or classroom is not conducive to their learning style. Our opportunities with Virtual High School are unlimited.”
For the 2010-11 school year, Virtual High School will seat 10-15 full-time students and will be able to seat more than a thousand part-time students at any given time.
Full-time students can take up to three courses at a time. Though all courses will be taught entirely online, the group will be required to meet at least once each semester for non-academic reasons, such as social skills and bonding. Students will maintain a Virtual High School blog and other social elements to help them feel part of a bigger community.
“The beauty of virtual education is that students are in control of their own education,” said Associate Superintendent of High Schools Jay Steele. “We want to meet students where they are academically, regardless of age or geographic location.”
Upon completion of a course, they can immediately enroll in a new course, regardless of day or month. This will allow all students the opportunity for accelerated learning. Eligibility guidelines are still being developed, though five full-time students have already been identified for the upcoming school year. The district is now accepting full time students or students may enroll part time through their regular high school.
Ray explains this first class will be very small so that the district can “build out student support.”
“We have to be able to provide every student certain support services -- access to advisors and counselors, assistance with financial aid and post-secondary education opportunities, online resources like libraries, social networking -- all the things students in traditional high schools have access to. So we will start with a small group of full-time students in 2010-11, but we expect to be completely open by 2011.”
The school will also be open to students enrolled in other high schools in the district. These students will take a regular load of classes at their enrolled high school and be able to take additional courses online. This will benefit students who want to take classes not offered at their regular school, or those who want to get ahead but not miss out on the traditional high school experience. There will be a fee for non-Metro students; it has not been determined.
All students interested in Virtual High School must have access to a computer. Parents must also be prepared to learn. All parents of full-time students will be expected to participate in a training program that will teach them how to help their children.
About online learning
Online learning is different from e-learning, which MNPS already offers in the form of A+ Credit Recovery. While e-learning does not require an actual instructor, every online course has a full-time instructor. The teacher may be in another state, but he or she monitors and instructs the students daily.
MNPS will contract with an online learning vendor to locate and provide courses. The district will purchase so many “seats” which can be used for any course and any student. One of the greatest benefits to online learning is the unlimited number and type of courses MNPS will be able to offer students. According to Ray, “Japanese, AP Archaeology, you name it. If it’s out there, we can offer it.”
MNPS has a Coordinator for Virtual Learning and a Virtual Curriculum Specialist in place. Coordinator Barbra Thoeming worked with Florida Virtual School as an instructor and Instructional Manager. In addition, she was an online student during her Master’s Degree program. This gives her a unique insight into the needs of students, parents, and teachers in the virtual environment.
Specialist Scott Merrick was recently selected as a National Association of Independent Schools “Teacher of the Future” and is chairperson of the Virtual Learning Environment Special Interest Group for Virtual Environments. He served 14 years as a Technology Coordinator at University School of Nashville.
Virtual High School will be funded through federal grants. This is the first school in our state to offer online learning in this capacity.
The 2010-2011 school year begins on Thursday, August 12, 2010, with new immunization requirements for pre-school, pre-K, kindergarten and 7th grade students. Vaccination information is available, in English and Spanish, at http://www.mnps.org/Page68374.aspx.
- MNPS -
Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools serve more than 76,000 students with the goal of being the first choice for families in Nashville and Davidson County. The governing body for MNPS is the Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County Board of Public Education, a nine-member group elected by residents of Metropolitan Nashville. For more information, please visit www.mnps.org.