Online courses offered at K-WStudents registering for next fall's classes at Kenyon-Wanamingo High School won't just have to choose between political science and economics or between art and accounting. Now, some of them will be deciding between classroom or living room.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
Students registering for next fall's classes at Kenyon-Wanamingo High School won't just have to choose between political science and economics or between art and accounting. Now, some of them will be deciding between classroom or living room.
Next fall, Kenyon Wanamingo will launch a pilot program for online learning that will allow students to take up to three courses over the Internet.
"We feel the trend will keep pushing in that (online) direction," Kenyon Wanamingo High School Principal Patrick Walsh said. "We need to be ahead of it."
The courses will be offered through Southeast Minnesota Virtual Academy, a coalition of six school districts in the Hiawatha Valley League of schools - Hayfield, Kasson-Mantorville, Kenyon-Wanamingo, La Crescent-Hokah, Stewartville and Triton.
SEMVA has been in the planning stages for four years. "Now, it's coming to fruition," Walsh said.
Online education has been gaining popularity with students over the last decade, Lois Cox, director of SEMVA said.
"Nationwide, at least 40 percent will have taken at least one class online," she said.
SEMVA grew out of a desire to make sure that the courses students are taking online are as rigorous as those offered in the classroom.
"We wanted to have more control over offering (online) courses," Cox said. "If students were going to be taking these classes online anyway ... we wanted to make sure we were offering the best."
How it works
Cox said students will work with their school's guidance counselors to choose which courses to take and how they will fit into their education goals.
The courses will be taught by both teachers employed by the six Hiawatha Valley schools and by teachers in outside districts. The online instructor will keep in contact with the local school guidance counselor, and credits will be transferred to the student's transcript once the class is completed.
The online courses will offer students much more flexibility, Cox said.
"It's all about offering options to students so that they can learn in the way they best learn, instead of having them all fit into this mold," she said.
Students can come to school to use the computer lab, or they can work from home. They can do their work during normal school hours, or they can do it in the middle of the night. A teacher will be available to answer questions 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday, Cox said.
In addition to offering scheduling flexibility, the online courses will offer students more academic flexibility.
"It's about individual education," Walsh said. Students will be able to take classes not offered at their schools.
Rachael Coon, a sophomore at La Crescent-Hokah Senior High School, plans on taking German classes through SEMVA next fall because her school doesn't offer German in a traditional classroom setting.
"I'll have more opportunity with SEMVA," she said.
At Kenyon-Wanamingo, only advanced students will be able to take SEMVA courses during the first year, Walsh said. It will give them the opportunity to take college-level courses. Eventually, students who are falling behind will be able to use SEMVA to catch up at their own pace.
Preparing for the future
Keeping up with the trend toward online education and offering students more options are just two of the reasons behind SEMVA. Cox said that preparing students to be able to live in an increasingly tech savvy world is another.
"It also prepares them for the global economy," she said. "(It's a) critical skill for students to be able to collaborate online with people who they may never see face-to-face."
Still, don't expect future classrooms to be made up solely of monitors and keyboards. Traditional classrooms will continue to have a place in education.
"It's not that we're going to shut down our school and only have a computer lab," Cox said. "We just want to have options."