Sunday, December 30, 2007

CT Online High School Classes - Good for Homeschoolers ? Or Not?

Connecticut education officials have just begun enrolling students for online high school classes, starting January 23rd. The pilot program is called Connecticut Virtual Learning Center and currently offers 21 courses. There are basic courses as well as electives.

I gave it a quick peek at the program and noticed that you have to be enrolled in public school to take these courses. I am not liking that idea at all. It should be open to anyone, whether they are enrolled in a government school or not. The program apparently requires a mentor, etc., for a student to participate through this program. I'd look into the specifics of this program first before recommending homeschoolers jump onto that bandwagon.

You can, I imagine, by-pass that and take any courses through CT Distance Learning Consortium directly, probably without being enrolled in public school and requiring a "mentor".

I know many homeschoolers already take courses online through a variety of resources.

Here is an article about on-line "E-schooling" and online education, that I penned a while ago:

The Internet has provided us with entertainment, news, goods and services and an incredibly diverse fountain of information. We can certainly use the many offerings of the Internet to homeschool our children. While there are online games to play, and worksheets or study guides to print out, online coursework can also be a very valuable tool to use when teens homeschool. Online coursework can be made part of your child's plan of study, even if you unschool, simply because it is so available, and covers so many topics of interest.

There are many different kinds of online coursework. Some are self-study type programs that you can work through at your own pace, and some are virtual courses where you can "attend" a class online, conversing with the instructor and other students. There are podcasts too, which make lessons portable on your kids' iPod or MP3 player. Somewhere in between there is a variation which may suit you best. Please note too that for some online courses you may need to download special programs to allow you to access the classes or participate in online lectures, or virtual classes. You might have to make sure that your computer has the capabilities to allow you to "take the class."

For example: My son did two online college level courses and received certificates of completion for them. The first one was an algebra course, and he had lessons to do and a book to follow along with. He had to submit assignments to the instructor online, and he later received the grading and comments back. He worked through the course according to a prescribed schedule. The units had to be finished and tests had to be submitted by specific dates. The second course, The History of Philosophic Thought was somewhat similar, and required that he read certain books, and download some lectures to listen to. He also had specific time frames to complete and submit coursework. When he later applied for college, these two courses were included in my son's transcript, along with certificates of completion and each course's syllabus.

These courses did not award "official and transferable credit", but the value was that the colleges he applied to saw that he accomplished the coursework.
There are online programs that do award you official credit, but often you have to pay for those courses. The courses that my son took were free, except for what we paid in books, which was minimal. The cost of an online course can be free or it can cost as much as a comparable college course. The credit you earn can be just for your own satisfaction or actual usable and transferable college or high school credits. There are a wide variety of opportunities out there.

The beauty of taking online coursework is that it is a good way to introduce your child to college level coursework, or do high school level coursework, in a very workable and flexible environment. Obviously it can save on gasoline and commute time. Students can pick classes they are really interested in, usually without the pressure of a real school environment. The kids have the freedom to study the material on their own time in order to prepare work to be submitted at a deadline, so they learn to budget their time. They can organize their days to get a big chunk of work done, or do it in small pieces. Sometimes they may even be able to do a class together with a friend and share the experience. If they need help, the instructor is an email away. It is fascinating too, because my son's instructors were in Austria, and Washington State. The process and organization of distance learning is in itself an interesting experience.

With regard umbrella schools, which people use for homeschooling high school, some offer all or part of their coursework online. Some of the schools do offer a class-by-class option as well as an entire curriculum. Some are aimed specifically at homeschoolers. The best thing to do is to find out more about the individual programs and courses and see if it is right for your child. Remember some web-based coursework is geared for high school and others are college level offerings. Please take that into consideration when you are looking for courses. You should also note that some high school programs are offered through college programs like Indiana University, and thus may be a terrific segue into admissions into their college programs.

The following will point you to a list of courses and/or full curriculums on-line:
World Wide Learn
Online Course Search

And here are some examples:

Peterson's Distance Learning

North Dakota Division of Independent Study

Distance Learning Online

Indiana University School of Continuing Studies
and here is the web information for their High School Programs

MIT - Fabulous Free Courseware programs online! Yes !! FREE!!!

and here is an example of an umbrella school online:
Laurel Springs
Their website says Laurel Springs School is an innovator in the field of online, or Web-based, education. They have nearly 80 online classes, including honors and special needs offerings approved by the University of California

So many resources are at our fingertips - literally.
The world is truly our classroom!

(H/T Coleen B.)