Virtual school is a reality
These days, people can go to online school for just about anything. Online colleges offer degrees in under a year. At Cactus Shadows, students can take classes online that count towards graduation. This does not include the menagerie of websites and organizations offering online courses to earn GEDs, regain credits, and get ahead.
eLearning is for “students who don’t have enough credits who want to make up credits quicker, and who want to move faster than the required rate,” Jackie Beazley, the assistant principal, said.
Currently, 34 students consisting of mostly juniors and seniors have chosen eLearning over the traditional classroom setting. On average, they take six to eight classes per semester during periods two and six. Although the online learning course offerings complement the Cactus Shadows curriculum, certain electives are not available. In turn, students are given the opportunity to take an elective during either or both first and last period.
There is no doubt that online schooling is a growing phenomenon. In the 2009- 2010 school year, roughly 1,816,400 long-distance enrollments were recorded. Nearly all of these enrollments were online school enrollments, according to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. This stands in stark contrast to the measly 45,000 enrollments of a decade ago.
With the new building in use for the 2012-2013 school year, 16 extra seats will be offered for the eLearning program. The completed application as well as a counselor recommendation for credit retrieval can be submitted to Beazley.
The question regarding whether such courses provide a method of learning equivalent to that of live schooling remains in debate. Senior Chris Hodge attended the online schooling program for the fall semester of 2011-2012. The program is new – last year marked its establishment – and relatively discreet in comparison to traditional Cactus Shadows offerings. An evening class (2:30 – 6:00) on east campus is also offered, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the main campus.
It certainly is a unique curriculum; students actually create their own curriculums and complete the tasks at their own pace. From ccusd93.org’s description of the project: “…done in part by students completing individual contracts of assigned work under the direction of our certified teacher. Assigned work would be completed on computers and/or through independent projects.
It’s a collaborative effort between students and staff” Complete information on the program itself can be found on Cactus Shadows’ website under eLearning.
Hodge recently spent an entire semester attending online school. “It’s nice but you start to feel useless to society” said Hodge. “It should only be used to recover credits and catch a student up to speed.”
Hodge believes that online school can be a poor alternative to live schooling. “No hands on learning. Copy and paste essay responses. It’s not real.” This simple statement may indeed sum up one of the main gripes about online schooling.
An online student will see a lot less of his or her peers. To remedy this, some online school programs have taken to forming clubs over the internet in order to connect their students.
“You start to feel like a robot after a while, definitely,” Christa Cervantes, a senior and former online student confirmed.
Online school is convenient, though it remains inconclusive whether its benefits outweigh its drawbacks. Perhaps to the androids of the future, our partiality towards social contact, hands-on learning, and circulatory systems will seem as absurd as the light bulb and non-leaden pencils once did.