Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

The Virtual Classroom: Online Learning

Virtual schools make available a world of new courses -- from obscure electives to Advanced Placement classes -- that challenge students intellectually and open up new doors educationally. More to this story.
Transcript

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.

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.

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.

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, go to Edutopia.org

Get Video
Embed Code Embed Help

Contact media@edutopia.org for video permissions questions or other assistance.

Credits

Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producers:

  • Roberta Furger
  • Miwa Yokoyama

Editors:

  • Blair Gershkow
  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Charlie Collias
  • Ken Ellis
  • Michael Mulvey
  • Jeremy Settles
  • Velocity Films
  • Rob Weller
  • Miwa Yokoyama

Narrators:

  • Susan Blake
  • Kris Welch

Comments (29)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Michele Savoia's picture
Michele Savoia
11, 12 grade psychology teacher from Barry Goldwater High School, Phoenix

I really loved the video, because it shows how we as educators need to keep up with technology of the new learners today. It was like I was watching parts of my own children, and how they learn so differently than I do. This is more interactive than just a student passively listening to a class lecture in the back of a classroom doodling in his notebook. Online education engages students in a whole new way.

Michele Savoia's picture
Michele Savoia
11, 12 grade psychology teacher from Barry Goldwater High School, Phoenix

After watching this video, it really made me think about how learning has changed so much since I was in school. If we don't change with technology, we will lose a lot a students unable to reach them. Online learning is way more interactive than classroom lecture, keeping the student more actively engaged. The student doesn't have the option to disappear in the back of the classroom doodling in his notebook, or texting his girlfriend.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

Hi Michelle --

You're so right when you say "If we don't change with technology, we will lost students." This video was actually produced in 2005, so you can imagine how the technology has evolved since then. Lasy tear, we produced a comprehensive package on "The Digital Generation." It has over 15 student profiles (outlining how they specifically interact with technology), plus downloads and resources to help you get started to engage this "digital generation" in your classroom.

[quote]After watching this video, it really made me think about how learning has changed so much since I was in school. If we don't change with technology, we will lose a lot a students unable to reach them. Online learning is way more interactive than classroom lecture, keeping the student more actively engaged. The student doesn't have the option to disappear in the back of the classroom doodling in his notebook, or texting his girlfriend.[/quote]

Kera Steenmeijer's picture

I think that virtual learning can be good for some people, but in my opinion i would not have dedication to go through school through the computer. It is a lot easier to sit in a regular classroom and learn the way classes should be taught.

Kera Steenmeijer's picture

I think that virtual learning can be good for some people, but in my opinion i would not have dedication to go through school through the computer. It is a lot easier to sit in a regular classroom and learn the way classes should be taught.

Erica Gleason's picture

I think virtual classes can be beneficial depending on the person. For me, I don't think i'd have the dedication for it and that I would gt less done. For others, it may be easier and work better for their schedule. I also think that computers have lot of complications that would bring up problems with the class.

Gaby Cedeno's picture

I think that virtual learning is good and bad. It may be bad for those students who need the push they get from having deadlines and a teacher reminding them what needs to be done. On the otherhand virtual learning is good because it is flexible and offers those who are motivated on their own a chance to get ahead.

Ivan Martinez's picture

In my opinion I believe that most of the student body population spend about 50% of their daily life on the computer/cell phone in the first place. Why encourage them to waste the other 50% on the same thing that they are already wasting it on. It's encouraging students to have a machine do everything for them. As the Design Chief of the Yearbook I spend most of my day connected to the Lap Top. I don't want to spend my whole day on something I can easily do myself. Advantages: Students go at their out pace, with nothing to worry about. Disadvantage: The computer is doing all the work for them. They're basically holding a mouse typing in a few words every now and then. They're relying on something that they can easily do by themselves; their taking the easy way out of things.

Ivan Martinez's picture

In my opinion I believe that most of the student body population spend about 50% of their daily life on the computer/cell phone in the first place. Why encourage them to waste the other 50% on the same thing that they are already wasting it on. It's encouraging students to have a machine do everything for them. As the Design Chief of the Yearbook I spend most of my day connected to the Lap Top. I don't want to spend my whole day on something I can easily do myself. Advantages: Students go at their out pace, with nothing to worry about. Disadvantage: The computer is doing all the work for them. They're basically holding a mouse typing in a few words every now and then. They're relying on something that they can easily do by themselves; their taking the easy way out of things.

Mr. Tarkowski's picture
Mr. Tarkowski
School Counselor

Virtual Learning has a place in education. Education must adapt to the world of online learning. Requiring all students to take one online class for graduation is in the future. How much face-to-face learning a student needs would be based on an individuals learning plan for all students. Some face-to-face would be a requirement for all students. Social skills need to be taught.

Discussion Toss the Script

Last comment 2 hours 37 min ago in Lesson Plans

Discussion Top 11 things to consider when choosing a higher education software

Last comment 2 days 5 hours ago in Technology Integration

Discussion Taking the plunge with social media in the classroom

Last comment 4 hours 35 min ago in Technology Integration

Discussion NaNoWriMo: An #EduAwesome Project for Your #BestYearEver

Last comment 2 days 22 hours ago in Project-Based Learning

Schools that Work Blended Learning: Making it Work in Your Classroom

Last comment 2 days 25 min ago in Blended Learning

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.