Friday, June 23, 2000
Internet courses expand electives for CCHS students
Introduction to Java Programming, Exploring the International Business World, Shakespeare in Films, and AeronauticsBuilding a Model Airplane; these are a few of the classes Concord-Carlisle High School students took this year through the Virtual High School (VHS), a group of courses offered over the Internet.
Juniors and seniors were able to take the online courses for the first time this year, interacting and sharing ideas with students and teachers from over 100 highs schools around the world. The Virtual High School courses greatly expand the electives available at the high school. Several honors-level classes are offered through VHS, as well as a few advanced placement courses that allow students to take a college-level course for credit.
Using a computer at the high school or at home, students access their Internet course with a password. The web site has a schedule with class assignments and teacher instructions. There are articles, graphics and links to related web sites. The students participate by posting their comments and course work at the web site. Because students and teachers enter the web site at different times of the day, class discussions are not live as they are in chat rooms on the Internet.
Teachers log on to the site daily and respond to student questions. If a student is not taking part in class work, the teacher can send an e-mail to the student or contact the web site manager at the high school to speak with the student directly.
Students receive 2.5 credits for a semester, 5 credits for a yearlong course and standard grades of A-F. The courses cannot replace required courses in the curriculum.
Dean of Students and site coordinator for the program Peter Badalament stated that the Internet courses work best for students who can handle a self-paced learning environment and are able to manage their time well. Badalament noted that the biggest obstacle many students face is finding the time to fit in an Internet class because many are already taking a full course load. This year, 15 CCHS students took Virtual High School courses, with more enrolled for next year.
A range of offerings
Some courses teach students how to use commercial software tools. A creative science class, Thrill Ride Event-Based Science, has students use a software program to create theme parks and thrill rides. Music Composition and Arranging teaches students how to use music writing and sequencing software, while an art course has students create an on-line exhibit of student art work. Some courses require students to download software programs from the Internet or have other technical requirements to help students gain computer proficiency. Not all courses are technical in nature. Walk on the Wild Side, for instance, is a language arts course that explores the relationship between people and nature through literature.
Senior Chad Berndtson, who took Shakespeare in Films, said his online teacher asked the class to read some of the Shakespeare plays, then view clips of Shakespeare movies the teacher had sent them on a videotape. Students wrote reviews of the films and posted their essays and comments on the web site. Berndtson said he read other students' work and e-mailed his comments to them. "We're in a new digital age. Virtual High School offers a wide range of courses and some interesting, off-beat subjects," he said.
Contributing a course
CCHS participates in the Virtual High School by contributing an online course. Math teacher Peter Atlas created and taught a new course this year called Time, Space and Other Things, A Math Treatment of Topics of Dimension. In exchange for offering the course, CCHS is allowed 20 students in VHS per semester.
The program was started in 1996 by the Concord Consortium, an educational research organization based in Concord, and the Hudson Public Schools, with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
The Concord Education Fund provided funds to purchase a laptop computer for Atlas to use in teaching the course. The high school budget now funds the program as a part-time teaching position.
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