Virtual Academy

By Patterson, Claire | Techniques, April 2001 | Go to article overview

Virtual Academy


Patterson, Claire, Techniques


At the Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development, a virtual class is a great tool for remediation and acceleration.

Online courses, e-learning, a Virtual Academy-this is a winning solution for many high school students who need to make up a course.. or who just benefit from a different environment in which to learn.

In two years of experience with the Virtual Academy at the Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development in southwest Ohio, more than 900 students have taken courses in core subjects such as math and English.

Ninety-four percent of these students have earned credit for the course. The national average for success in computer-based learning is only 65 percent. Many of the Great Oaks students-90 percent in fact-had failed the course the first time around in a traditional classroom setting.

How has Great Oaks achieved this rate of success? What is the lesson for using computer-based learning effectively? We have learned that the effectiveness of this learning tool depends directly on the involvement of a committed teacher.

A real-life example: A teacher at our Scarlet Oaks campus came upon one of her senior students crying in the cafeteria.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" she asked. The young lady replied that there was not. She had failed her ninth grade English course and had never made it up. It was now April, and she was to graduate in June-but without the English credit she could not graduate.

The teacher went to the counselor, and the counselor called me and asked, "Is there any way the Virtual Academy can help?" I met with the young woman and her mother. Together we decided that, yes, if our student was willing to put in about 24 hours a week for each of the next six weeks, she could complete the ninth grade English course online and on time for it to count for a June graduation. "I'll do anything it takes, Mrs. Patterson," was the student's response.

Our next step was to find an English teacher to grade the online assignments and assess the student's progress on the learning objectives. The student's 12th grade English teacher willingly took on the extra work. With the English teacher and the student's automotive technology instructor encouraging, pushing and reinforcing her daily, she completed the work and earned the English credit.

While making up a course-more typically in summer school than in a crash program-is the most common use we have made so far of the Virtual Academy, this learning tool provides other students with a valuable alternative to traditional classroom instruction.

Co-op students, who are on the job with an employer during at least part of the school day, can work at home, or anywhere else they can get access to the Internet. Students who are homebound by illness, injury or other factors can keep up with their coursework. Students who seek additional original credits have the opportunity to take the advanced courses of their choices on their own time and at their own pace.

The key ingredient in each of these applications is the interaction with a teacher. …

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