Students enrolled in Atlanta Public Schools’ Virtual Academy have lived up to the program’s motto of, “Anytime, Anyplace and Space.” This summer 650 middle and high school students are attending classes virtually and earning credit recovery or taking accelerated classes. The ability to log in from any mobile device means students don’t have to miss summer vacations. Some students even travelled abroad and were able to complete their required coursework.
The pilot program started in the summer of 2013 with 15 courses and 192 students. This fall due to demand, 44 courses will be available for the first time including Advanced Placement, honors and world languages.
This summer, the most popular classes were ninth-grade Literature, Algebra, Analytic Geometry and American Literature. All courses were offered at no cost. “Kudos to the superintendent and the board for agreeing to cover costs,” exclaimed Krasandra Holmes, Digital Learning Specialist at APS. Aleigha Henderson-Rosser, Executive Director of Instructional Technology says similar coursework in other districts can cost up to $500 a semester.
Henderson-Rosser says parents are especially excited about the virtual opportunities. Over 1,000 parents attended orientation sessions over the course of two days to learn more about how the program works. Students received their username and passwords and were counseled on course selection and what it takes to be a successful digital student. Parents at each of the four orientation sessions learned how to support their students online. Attendees recited the chant,”I promise to login every day and complete my assignments” as a reminder of the daily commitment involved.
Student and teacher participation is closely monitored. Statistic tracking allows administrators to see student activity within the course, how long students stay on task and the length of time it takes to complete assignments. Teachers are required to maintain communication logs and conduct collaboration sessions.
APS Administrators pay close attention to see how often teachers log in, whether they respond to discussion and if they leave feedback. Henderson-Rosser and Holmes agree all of these tools are necessary to ensure teachers are present and engaged.
The people behind virtual learning are passionate about the possibilities of a virtual classroom.
“Learning is no longer limited to whoever is in the building,” said Holmes.
And that could allow for an equal playing field for students with less access to Advanced Placement classes or when there is a shortage of teachers in specific disciplines.