Online Learning Gets Personal (Transcript)
Patricia Kretzer: You have to look very carefully with oysters, but you can see where they come together, where the two shells come together.
Narrator: High schools across the country teach students about marine biology in hands-on labs like this one at Daniel Jenkins Academy in Haines City, Florida.
Some have some more spots than others.
Patricia Kretzer: Some have more spots than others.
Narrator: But at this school, live interaction with the classroom teachers is the exception to the rule, because the students who come here take most of their courses, including this one, online.
Patricia Kretzer: 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 kind of silvery-shiny?
Out of the close to 200 students that I'll deal with this year, I will only see maybe 10 of those students, so this is a really great opportunity as an instructor to get to meet my students face to face.
This is all part of the reproductive system.
Narrator: Kretzer believes that she can relate to her students better in a virtual classroom than in a real one.
Patricia Kretzer: 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.
Hey, Chelsea. All right, which quiz do we need to do?
Narrator: Kretzer designs and teaches her courses through the Florida Virtual School. Established in 2000, the nation's first Internet-based public school offers virtual learning options for grades seven through twelve.
Julie Young: We offer a full high school curriculum. It consists of electives, core courses, advanced-placement courses and honors courses, 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.
All right, here it goes.
Our wonderful angel pie.
Oh, look at that.
Narrator: "Florida Virtual" means different things to different students. It's allowed Amanda Gashaw to work full time as a waitress while taking high school and college courses online.
Amanda Gashaw: I have been able to hold down a full-time job, be considered almost a full-time student at the local community college and participate in community activities, such as cheerleading and volunteer things. And if it weren't for taking classes online, I would not be able to do this.
Katarina Williams: This assignment was called "The Impact of Change."
Katarina Williams prefers Florida Virtual's offerings and the support she receives from computer facilitators at Daniel Jenkins to the other local high school environment.
Katarina Williams: Over at the high school you have so many people trying to get around everybody. It's kind of hectic. I'd rather have a teacher that's willing to be here and to help me and that's not just upset about everything else.
Tell me about how you researched it.
Katarina Williams: And that's how it feels that a lot of the teachers are at the public high school, because the classes are so large and they get so irritated so easily. So, from this online high school, I expected a lot from it and I've received a lot.
Narrator: Williams spends the school day taking online courses at Daniel Jenkins and goes to nearby Haines City High to compete in track.
Katarina Williams: Over there it's loud; it's overcrowded, and I feel like if I'm around the right type of people that're here, then that has just pushed me to strive and do better at what I do.
Narrator: Florida Virtual allowed Nick Petrecca to complete his high school classes after he injured his knee playing football. His favorite course is the marine biology unit designed by Pat Kretzer.
Nick Petrecca: She actually puts a storyline behind it, like we're supposed to be all in this ship and we're all supposed to be explorers and go through the Galapagos Islands, the Madagascar Islands. The answers weren't just there; you had to go deeper into the Internet and find out more stuff, and at the same time you were learning more stuff, so that class to me is awesome.
Now all the modules you have to complete before graduation?
Nick Petrecca: At school.
Narrator: Lisa Petrecca sometimes shares a small office with her son running an international virtual business from their home.
Lisa Petrecca: It's funny, because Nick and I work in the same office together and we kind of fight over space.
What're you [ inaudible ]. Back up.
So he gets to see a lot of what I deal with, and now he realizes how disciplined and focused you have to be.
Nick Petrecca: I would recommend if you're a procrastinator if you go into this class and you don't want to do the work, you keep pushing it off, "I'll do it tomorrow. I'll do it tomorrow," then don’t even try to do it, because you're going to end up way behind.
Lisa Petrecca: The flexibility that I think is great for Nick is if it takes him two hours, he's not embarrassed by other children, and if it takes him 20 minutes he's not held back by other kids. I think the greatest point about this school is their correspondence and the interaction with the parents. I get progress reports constantly. I have the flexibility to make calls any hour of the day, because these teachers are working from home.
Narrator: With the lack of qualified teachers for every subject and growing demands from students for more flexibility, more and more learning will happen online.
William Thomas: The students are going to be able to use technology more and 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.
Patricia Kretzer: So you can call me whenever it's flexible for you, and then I'll…
William Thomas: Our organization's all about quality, and 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.