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Taking stock of our children’s educational needs

According to Education Week’s “Technology Counts 2002,” 32 states now sponsor e-learning initiatives. A recent independent study, sponsored by Apex Learning and Blackboard Inc., surveyed 447 high school principals and 345 school district administrators and found that more than 50 percent of U.S. high schools are offering online courses or are considering offering them in the near future.

“When we began this study, we expected that we would see a fair number of schools offering online courses, but the momentum that virtual learning is building in U.S. high schools is noteworthy,” said Jay Sivin-Kachala, principal investigator for Interactive Educational Systems Design, Inc., the company that conducted the 2002 survey.

Schools and districts said that they are turning to online courses to help tackle a number of challenges. Delivering a broader curriculum cost-effectively and expanding college prep and Advanced Placement offerings were among the top reasons schools and districts gave for adopting online courses.

Providing educational equity and resolving scheduling conflicts are other key reasons why high schools offer students the opportunity to enroll in online courses. For example, at western Pennsylvania’s Shanksville-Stonycreek High School, principal Connie Hummel was unable to recruit a German teacher, but 17 students at this small rural high school were still able to fulfill their foreign language requirement for graduation by taking German II online.

Across the country in the four corners region of northeastern New Mexico, Bloomfield High School principal Nancy Radford was looking for a way to ensure that students who wanted to enroll in rigorous college prep courses like Advanced Placement had the opportunity to do so. Online AP courses, provided through the New Mexico Virtual School, offered the solution and last school year, 36 juniors and seniors completed AP courses in English literature, physics and U.S. history.

“This research supports Apex Learning’s belief that online courses can help schools ensure that students have access to the high quality educational opportunities needed for success in high school, college and in life, regardless of the resources available locally,” said Sue Collins, chief education officer, Apex Learning.

For more than four years, Bellevue, Wash.-based Apex Learning has been a pioneer in developing and offering online learning resources for high schools. During that time, nearly 75,000 students have used the company’s online courses, learning resources and test preparation products.

Beginning with online Advanced Placement courses, Apex Learning has expanded its online course catalog to include foreign language and general studies courses, an AP test preparation product and online resources to support teachers and students.

Using the national AP exam results as a baseline, Apex Learning is also seeing that online students are doing as well or better than students who take conventional classroom courses. In fact, 60 percent of Apex Learning students who pass an AP course score a three or better (passing grades) on their AP exam, compared to 61 percent of all students taking the AP exam.

Successful online learning takes a commitment on the part of the school, the parents and the students. Access to technology is key. But for overburdened school districts, Apex Learning’s online courses can be a huge benefit.

- Courtesy of ARA Content

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