The Virtual Classroom: Online Learning
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The Virtual Classroom: Online Learning

>>Teacher: So boys and girls, right now what we’re gonna
do is we’re gonna log onto the internet, but I know–>>Narrator: The internet has
facilitated a whole new world of learning.>>Teacher: Where is
Miss Junie to right now?>>Costa Rica.>>Costa Rica, good.>>Narrator: Connecting people and
cultures that are worlds apart.>>[singing].>>Narrator: Increasingly, the
internet also provides an alternative to traditional classroom instruction. Virtual classes that are open
twenty-four seven to students like these sophomores
at Daniel Jenkins School in Haines City, Florida.>>Pat: Here at Daniel Jenkins, the
students actually come to school and do their classes online. And normally, most of the students
would actually do this lab at home, but getting oysters and squids
in this area is kind of hard for the students, so I was able
to obtain those and bring them out and actually interact
with the students.>>Does everybody see something
that’s kinda silvery shiny?>>Out of the close to two
hundred students that I’ll deal with this year, I will only see
maybe ten of those students, so this is really a great
opportunity as an instructor to get to meet my students face to face.>>This is all part of
the reproductive system.>>Narrator: Pat Kretzer believes she
can relate to her students better in a virtual classroom
than in a real one.>>Pat: Being the online instructor,
you have a more personal relationship with your students,
because we do interact with them online, on the phone. You can really get
to know them better. And you can also identify
their strengths and weaknesses much more quickly, I
think, than in the regular classroom, because I deal with them only
when I’m working with them. If I need to take two hours
with that student to help them, then I take two hours
with that student.>>Hi, Chelsea, uh-huh. All right, which clues
do we need to do?>>Narrator: Kretzer designs
and teaches her courses through the Florida Virtual School. Established in two thousand, the nation’s first internet based
public school offers virtual learning options for grades
seven through twelve.>>Julie: We offer a full
high school curriculum and they are all the courses that
a student would actually need to graduate to get a diploma. Although we don’t offer a
diploma and that is by design. Our role, here in the state of
Florida, is to actually fill the gaps of our public and our
private schools. For example, our rural districts have
less access to high quality courses and high quality teachers. Online learning brings
that to their doorstep.>>Narrator: In rural West
Virginia, schools are now required to offer foreign languages
in seventh and eighth grade. But in small towns like Fayetteville, there aren’t enough qualified
teachers to do the job.>>Joyce: [Spanish].>>Narrator: West Virginia Virtual
School provides a solution, with teachers like Joyce
McClanahan, who is lead teacher for twenty-one Spanish classes in fifteen different West
Virginia middle schools.>>Joyce: Jesus, we must use
the infinitive after [Spanish].>>Now I actually don’t start teaching
till about a quarter till eight and I teach basically
forty-five minute classes. My school day generally
ends around three thirty, and then after a short break,
students will start calling if they need extra help at night. So the job usually goes
to about ten at night.>>Teacher: Okay, good, let’s
do a sound check real quick and if it’s all right, then
we’ll go ahead and get started.>>Narrator: There aren’t enough
qualified teachers for every course in the Las Vegas school
system either, in part, because Clark County accepts fifteen
thousand new students each year. To address that shortage, and to
save money on bricks and mortar, the county offers some forty-five
hundred students virtual courses in everything from public
health to microeconomics.>>Mike: You had the
full period to do this.>>Narrator: Like many
of his students, geometry teacher Mike
Patterson now splits his time between real classrooms
and virtual ones.>>Mike: I’m able to interact on a
live white board with the students. They raise their hand and
I see them in front of me. We speak through the mic.>>If you look at your work and see if you should have been adding
instead of multiplying them.>>As a teacher, I also
have some flexibility. I’m not run bell by bell. I can grade papers
on the front porch. It’s a very different kind of an
experience, a very fun one for me. It’s very invigorating to my teaching
career to try something like this.>>Narrator: For students, virtual
schools offer the opportunity to take courses not available
at their regular schools, and to fit them into their
individual schedules. While most of her fellow students
are hitting the books at ten AM, Zoe McNealy is pursuing
gold medal dreams. She can do much of her schoolwork
any time of the day or night, thanks to the online offerings
of Virtual High School.>>Nancy: It really made the
schedule for her skating much better, because it allowed her to
leave school during the day, so that she could skate
on an ice surface that didn’t have twenty
children skating on it.>>Zoe: This year, I’m taking
honors environmental science. I can log on anywhere that has
internet access, so it allows me to either access the work at
competitions, or I can access it when I come home and get
the work done that I missed, without really missing anything.>>Narrator: Virtual High School
is a nonprofit collaborative of over three hundred high
schools in twenty-six states and sixteen foreign countries
that offers more than one hundred and fifty high school
courses over the internet. Each participating school
contributes a course to the mix.>>Liz: They agree to free up
a teacher one period a day to teach a course online and VHS
provides the training services for that classroom teacher to learn
how to effectively teach online. I think a really critical element of
a good online course is the ability to build a community of
learners in that course. We design our courses so
that the students are engaged in online activities, they’re
engaged in online collaboration.>>Sheldon: We wanted to provide
opportunities for students to take advanced courses, to try
to accelerate their learning. Whether they are having significant
challenges in the classroom, or whether they’re very advanced and
can move rapidly through material.>>Zubin: This is almost
like a textbook. All my controls are here.>>Narrator: For Zubin Patel, VHS means taking advanced
computer science courses like cryptography at home.>>Zubin: The VHS basically
allows me to take these courses that aren’t offered at school. It means extra work, it means
staying up some nights till three in the morning doing
VHS work, but I got– you know, you have to
do what you have to do.>>[orchestra plays]>>Narrator: For Hudson’s music
program director, Jason Caron, VHS meant learning a
new way of teaching. He took the Virtual School’s
fifteen week teacher training, covering subjects like how
to foster online discussions, before developing his own VHS
course in American popular music.>>Jason: The students get two
compact discs with excerpts of music. They listen to that music or
watch the video and then discuss with their online classmates what
they listened to or what they saw. The tone in our voice
doesn’t get transmitted over the internet connection, so you
have to be very careful with wording and really spell out your
expectations, and that’s, you know, the hindrance, I guess,
of being disconnected from the students physically. But a lot of it’s quite the same too. You build collaborative projects. You do a lot of community building
activities to try to find the sense of the class and the personality of
the individuals in the class too.>>Teacher: Yeah, you can click right
up here and just drag that title out.>>Narrator: The rigorous
teacher training and engaging course designs
seem to be paying off. The completion rate for VHS
courses is ninety percent, and VHS AP students score
ten percentage points higher than the national average
on their final exams. But even its biggest booster warns against over reliance
on virtual learning.>>Sheldon: I don’t believe you can
have a completely virtual education. I don’t think that it’s
appropriate for students to have all their courses virtually,
and I think the social environment of the high school is an
important environment.>>Narrator: And while students see
many advantages to online courses, they also recognize that virtual
schooling isn’t for everyone.>>Lauren: I think when
you’re working online, you have to be a lot
more self motivated. Your teacher’s not sitting there,
you know, “Read these pages and make sure you have
this done by this time.” You know what you have to do
by the end of the quarter, and you just take care
of it yourself. And I know a lot of
students who don’t have that self motivation do get behind,
because no one’s there nagging them.>>Narrator: But for
students like Zoe McNealy, Virtual High School offers
the best of both worlds. The flexibility to fit the
classes into a busy schedule, and the time to savor learning.>>Zoe: It’s almost what an
actual class would offer you, except you’re able to do it
on your own, so, you know, you can take your time with the book. It’s almost like you enjoy things
more than you would otherwise.>>Narrator: As technology
continues to advance and teacher training improves, online
learning holds even greater promise.>>William: The students
are going to be able to use technology much more easily
and readily than ever before, not only taking full online courses,
but taking parts of courses online, so that you would have what they
call blended, having teachers in the regular classrooms teaching
face to face with their students for part of the time, and using the
technologies, where appropriate, to enhance and improve
the quality of courses.>>Pat: So you can call me
whenever is flexible for you.>>William: We see the potential of
this as being a tremendous method of improving the quality
of education, both in our region and
across the country.>>Narrator: For more
information on what works in public education,
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2 thoughts on “The Virtual Classroom: Online Learning

  1. Nice video. I liked.
    I suggest to cut off the scenes (@ 1:50) showing the teacher talking while driving. It is not good example, is it?

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