Faced with the loss of advanced or specialty classes, schools are going online to access curriculum they cannot provide. The Virtual High School (VHS) program allows schools to replace lost classes through an online connection with other schools.
“Even though the economy shows signs of improvement, schools nationwide are still experiencing budget cuts,” said Liz Pape, president and CEO of VHS. “In many cases, this has meant schools canceling low-enrollment courses to the detriment of students. The VHS program enables students to take courses that they often otherwise couldn’t access.”
As of March 2011 VHS, found at govhs.org, has experienced a boom in membership, growing to 770 member schools worldwide. Thanks to their schools’ partnership with VHS, hundreds of students are now taking a VHS course online with classmates and a teacher in other parts of the world. Pape said this online experience is preparing them for college and work in the 21st century and a global economy. Students at public and private schools from Maine and New York to Wisconsin and Wyoming are now enrolled in such courses as AP Physics, the Modern Middle East, Journalism in the Digital Age and AP Art History.
Designed to supplement a school’s classroom curriculum, VHS is a nonprofit collaborative of high schools, teachers and students. VHS member schools have access to 200 online elective, Advanced Placement and honors courses, which are taught by VHS teachers at member schools. All teachers are certified in their specific discipline and have completed a VHS graduate-level professional development program in online teaching. Instructors facilitate and continually monitor all courses, engaging students in discussions and assessing each individual student’s progress.
Pape said that while VHS offers classes that schools cannot, it is by no means a replacement for local teachers.
“VHS continues to partner with its member schools through its school-based model of online course delivery, ensuring that no classroom teacher jobs are lost due to membership in VHS,” Pape said. “In these tough economic times, I am proud to say that VHS continues to cooperate with public schools, not compete with them or cause the loss of teachers’ jobs.”