Friday, June 4, 1999
CCHS students can attend "Virtual High School" this fall
This fall some Concord-Carlisle High School students will enter the "Virtual High School" (VHS) and take an Internet-based course offered to them for the first time. At the regional school committee's May 25 meeting, Dean of Students and site coordinator Peter Badalament gave an overview of the program which will allow online learning with students and teachers across the country.
Many course offerings
The project was started in 1996 by the Hudson Public Schools and the Concord Consortium with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The Virtual High School uses Lotus's LearningSpace software, a collaborative group program that uses databases and tools to provide areas for the course schedule, class discussions, reading and class assignments, as well as teacher and student profiles. Information on VHS provided by Superintendent Eugene Thayer describes the program as an online network of 43 schools nationwide that offers 37 courses. It is expected to expand to more than 100 courses in the next year. VHS aims to increase the number of course offerings which might be available to high school students and gives them daily experience in using tools, such as e-mail and online research.
So far, 15 students at CCHS have signed up for VHS courses this fall. Intriguing course titles and descriptions are designed to pique student interest and include: There's Nothing New in Literature (or Is There?), A Model United Nations Simulation Using the Internet, Astronomy: Stars and the Cosmos, Eastern and Western Thought-A Comparison, Programming a Robotic Arm Using Visual Basic, Personal Finance, Expanding Artistic Vision through Photography, Business in the 21st Century, and several courses in Spanish.
VHS courses are conducted in a seminar style with students participating in group discussions by entering their comments at the course site. However, discussions are not live as in chat rooms, because students and teachers enter comments at different times of the day. After students enter their password to access the online course, they can read the entries at the site, pick up the week's assignments and enter their own work. The goal is to have students participate in online dialogue with other students across the country and with the teacher, in an active learning environment.
Teachers log onto the site daily and respond to student questions. If a student is not participating regularly in discussions or class work, the course teacher can send an e-mail to the student or contact the high school site coordinators to ask them to speak with the student directly.
Math teacher Peter Atlas developed a course for the VHS called Time, Space and Other Things: A Math Treatment of Topics of Dimension. In exchange for
developing the course, CCHS was given 20 student spots in VHS per semester. Atlas is enthusiastic about the course but said the online course development is "very labor-intensive", explaining that it has taken a lot of time to develop the ten weeks of course material that he has completed thus far. Assistant Superintendent of Schools Karen Nerpouni added that the project work is also considered professional development for the teachers in the program.
The program is available to all juniors and seniors who are eligible for open campus and have two to three open blocks in their schedule when they can use a computer at school to access the course. Students can also access their course via their home computer. According to Badalament, students are expected to spend between two and three hours a week working on their VHS course in school and five to ten hours out of school. VHS courses are considered electives and students receive 2.5 credits per semester with grading by the standard A-F system. The Internet courses cannot replace required courses in the curriculum.
Funded by grant
The high school budgeted a one-quarter teaching position or $15,000 for the site coordinator per year. The Concord Education Fund provided the seed money to start the program this year, according to Badalament. RSC member Loren Walters suggested that the high school look into finding additional grant funds for the program. For more information on the Virtual High School, including full course descriptions, visit the website at vhs.concord.org (www designation is not necessary).
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito