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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Online learning offers flexibility to high school students | Sun Sentinel

Photo: Lois K. Solomon
Lois Solomon, reporter for the Sun Sentinel since 1998 summarizes, "Online learning used to mean sitting in front of a computer and click, click, clicking, page after mind-numbing page."

Students can learn on-line full-time or part-time.
Photo: Maria Lorenzino, Sun-Sentinel

But over the past few years, online classes for high school students have evolved into a highly interactive, flexible way to learn. There are also opportunities to engage in social activities, internships, clubs and community service.

Students in grades 6 to 12 can attend school online full-time or part-time. All their courses and electives -- even physical education -- are available.

“At first, online classes were seen as different and in conflict with the traditional classroom,” said Daryl Diamond, director of innovative learning for Broward schools. “Now they are seen as a solution.”

Students log in to their custom-made accounts each day and view a series of lessons. They can learn as much or as little as they choose, although a teacher stays in communication with regular phone conversations and monitors their work to make sure they remain on a schedule. The students can finish a course quicker than expected or take longer than scheduled; most of the courses have extra time built in for finishing, Diamond said.

The content is constantly evolving with more interactivity, with recent additions such as live virtual classrooms that show an instructor in front of a web cam, teaching and taking live questions from students.

The virtual schools offer frequent social activities, online and in-person, such as National Honor Society, Future Educators of America and Creative Photography Club. In Palm Beach County, parents socialize at in-person networking events, students go on field trips and middle- and high-school students meet a few times a month for in-person sessions with their teachers.

Florida Virtual School opened in 1996; Broward Virtual School opened in 2001. Broward has 80 instructors who teach in the virtual system, which educated 15,000 students last year. Only about 400 were full-time, Diamond said.

Palm Beach Virtual School has grown from four full-time teachers nine years ago to 14 who teach more than 16,000 students today, Principal Debra Johnson said. The sector taking classes from home, charter and private schools has also grown tremendously, from about 1,600 three years ago to more than 4,000 today, she said.

Source: Sun Sentinel