Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Future of School? Virtual Classes at Hoover High School

At our school, we have been experimenting with online classes this year. We currently offer the following classes virtually:
  • English 12
  • Spanish III
  • US History 10
  • US History 11
  • Government
  • Economics
  • Health

Our master schedule is student-driven, meaning that the students select their desired courses and we build our schedule on their choices. Based on the number of students who chose virtual classes, we are able to offer one section (one class period) of the subjects.

Students can take their virtual classes in addition to a full schedule, or they can substitute the class for a traditional “period” during the day. Most classes are offered at the beginning or end of the day, allowing students to arrive later or leave school earlier. Most teachers require students to come to school for tests, but otherwise they do not have to report to class. If a student gets behind in their work, the teachers can “assign” mandatory days that the student has to report to class (usually 3-5 consecutive days) in order to get back on track.

I recently collected feedback from our students and teachers, and I want to share some of the specific feedback from our students. All of the teachers said that they wanted to teach virtual classes again next year. Most of the feedback was positive and the students said that they would take another virtual class and they would recommend it to other students.

What was successful about your virtual class during the first semester?

“Because of my busy schedule, I was able to have flexibility and independence.”

“Being about to use notes at our convenience and not having to be at school for 7 or 8 classes a day. It makes my schedule and stress level decrease.”

“I could work on the assignments whenever I wanted during a time that would fit in my schedule.”

“I enjoyed the fact that I had more time to complete assignments. I like doing things independently, so I liked doing the work at home. Also, I liked being able to divide my time throughout the week and plan out when I was going to do the work for the class.”

“Working around my schedule and allowing my to leave early for my sport but also getting the extra hour of sleep in the morning on days we did not meet.”

What were challenges about your class first semester?

“No one is there to remind you to do the work.”

“Hardly any, my teacher was awesome with responding fast and holding study sessions at the school.”

“Keeping up with the work was definitely a challenge. It was extremely easy to just let the work go and forget about it until the last minute.”

“The challenge is trying to do the work each day instead of waiting until the last minute.”

“Being committed to actually doing the work like reading our books.”

What needs to be changed about your virtual class for next year?

**Most students answered “nothing”

“I think the class should maybe meet one day or two days in order to answer questions, check homework, and make sure people understand it. The day the class meets should be a few days after we start the new lesson, but also a few days before the tests.”

“Having more worksheets or practice with the grammar and vocabulary.”

“There needs to be some kind of system of check-ins to keep us up to date each week.”

“Maybe meeting once every two weeks or so would be good, or even just having an optional day to make sure everyone is on the same page. We always have the option to come in and ask questions, but it might be beneficial to have an organized day for people who want to get together and do the activity together.”

“I think some of the work on the site doesn’t help us as much as some of the other work so I think some of the work could be changed or deleted.”

“Layout the entire schedule for the semester so I can work at my own pace instead of having to work week to week.”

When asked, “Will you take another virtual class at HHS in the future?”, the responses were mixed between Probably, Doubtful, Definitely Yes. There were a few students who responded with “Definitely No.” But when asked, “Would you recommend the virtual class you are taking to other students, and why or why not?”, most of the responses were yes. Here are some of the reasons why or why not:

“Yes, it really prepares you for individual learning.”

“I would recommend this class for students who are strong in the subject of the class and who can push themselves to do the work.”

“Yes. You have a lot of flexibility and independence while still learning.”

“Unless they never procrastinate and can handle the week to week work, I would not.”

“I would recommend the virtual class to other students if they like to independently learn.”

“Yes, I think it’s a great way to prepare for college or the workforce. You have to motivate yourself to do it and you don’t have someone telling you to all the time.”

“No, its hard to stay ahead and the lessons are not extremely exciting; there’s nothing that makes me want to do the lesson each day.”

“Yes, it’s very helpful if you are in an after-school activity.”

What do you think of virtual classes? Should all schools offer a virtual option?

1 comment:

  1. I introduced online U.S. History at our high school, it was enjoyable reading the student comments and seeing the similarities between my classes and your students. It is a great learning experience for students, I had the best class "discussions" because no one was afraid to comment. Discussions were better because you heard from every student not just the confident few.