SHS Enters the Virtual World...
SHS students are the latest to join in a new trend -- Virtual High School -- using online or "virtual" learning to expand course offerings. Thanks to a two year grant from SEF, beginning this past fall, SHS was able to offer students more than 50 additional courses, including Honors and AP classes. This is in addition to SHS's existing extensive program of studies. But what is Virtual High School? Virtual High School provides online learning to thousands of students in the US and around the world. SHS administrators and supervisors were able to choose from hundreds of courses, in English, science, math and world language, just to name a few. The courses are mostly electives, with care not to overlap with classes already offered at SHS. VHS courses are in addition to students' in-school courses and grades factor in to students' GPA. Make no mistake -- these courses are rigorous, requiring the same amount of time commitment as in-school courses, if not more. SHS students were up for the challenge! The program was available to tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders for a total of 25 openings, all of which were filled, leaving many students having to wait for the spring semester, which is now full as well!
Making the program work are SHS's own Cynthia Vitale and Loren MacTaggart, each with specific roles within the program. Cynthia Vitale, a science teacher with more than 20 years of experience, teaches a Bioethics course for VHS, with 25 students in her "class" from all over the country, including Summit students. Students receive multiple assignments per week via online courseware, participate in group discussions via a group thread and communicate directly with Ms. Vitale via a private thread. Says Vitale: these classes "require students to login everyday" except weekends and to dedicate at least "one hour every day." Classes include group work, blogs, wikis and labs for science classes. Vitale goes on to explain that while the VHS courses are "considered enrichment," they are "college level" courses.
While Ms. Vitale teaches students virtually, Loren MacTaggart is hands-on at SHS to help students navigate their new virtual courses. Ms. MacTaggart, a special education teacher at SHS with more than 25 years experience, is the Technology Infusion Coach. That is to say, she monitors the students and their progress in VHS. She checks in on students every day to ensure they are logging in and staying in contact with their teachers. She is the one to see for help in prioritizing assignments and time management. In addition, she is in constant contact with VHS in order to monitor the students' progress. While some students realized that an online course was not for them or recognized they had too many extracurriculars, for those for whom it did work, they found the classes to be challenging and rewarding.
Some of the many classes taken by SHS students were: Web Design, Bioethics, AP Art History, AP Human Geography, Portuguese, and Honors Climate Change. Sophomore Juliana Fiore, who took Honors Climate Change, had a wonderful experience, noting the excellent communication with her teacher and her classmates and that "Virtual High School allowed me to gain further insight on my passion, and I am grateful for this because this course is not otherwise offered in Summit." Students were given a survey of their experience and their reviews were very positive, sharing that they earned mostly As and Bs and learned the true meaning of budgeting their time. Overall, MacTaggart shared that students found their classes to be "hard, but exciting" and "they loved them."
Virtual High School is the latest example of Summit's commitment to education and continues to build upon Summit's already excellent academic reputation. For more information on VHS, visit www.vhscollaborative.com.