by Cyndy Rodgers
Over a decade ago, Harvard University psychologist, Howard Gardner revolutionized how we look at a childís aptitude with his theory of Multiple Intelligence. Since then hundreds of education advocates have adopted Gardnerís theory in support of recognizing a studentís learning style. Numerous preschools and elementary schools have embraced the idea that a student may use auditory, visual or kinetic strengths to process information. The result is a more meaningful and effective learning environment in those early years. But what about high school?
High school is a time when students may have a target goal toward college or they may be investigating what road to take. Wherever these young adults are in their education, they still possess a predominate learning style.Yet, the majority of high schools place students in a one-size-fits-all path at this most crucial time in their lives. Why?
Once a student has passed the threshold of his/her preliminary education and is now on the road to a future endeavor, isnít structuring the information so that the student comprehends and masters the course work imperative?
With a strong belief in honoring learning style throughout a studentís academic career, a new high school program has been developed. Answering the call is National University Virtual High School.
The name "National University" may seem familiar to many of you. For the past decade they have been a leader in on-line education for adults. They currently offer 26 accredited degree programs online and more than 300 online courses. They also boast the largest electronic library in higher education. National University also houses a celebrated School of Education. Its graduates and credential completers are recognized as some of the best educators in California, according to independent assessments from the National Blue Ribbon School competition, the California Distinguished School Program, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standardsí National Board Certification program and various Teacher of the Year competitions.
National Universityís Virtual High School (NUVHS) program was introduced in the beginning of 2004 and began with Summer school classes this June. In September NUVHS has begun offering a comprehensive list of courses on-line. Although there are many on-line education programs, Nationalís focus on learning styles makes it unique.
With the understanding that everyone has a preferred way to learn something new, NUVHS has made the educational theory of learning style the cornerstone of its program and has designed it so that students discover and work in their preferred method of study.
The moment a new student enrolls, a determination of his/her learning style is made. During the orientation phase students take a learning-styles assessment to create a personal profile. Afterward an academic advisor assists full-time students in the development of a customized Student Action Planô (SAP) for each course. This ensures the student will only spend time on those skills for which s/he has not demonstrated mastery.
The foundation of this program is a dynamic instructional model called Project-Based Learning. With Project-Based Learning, the goal is to design a program that will allow students to more fully participate in the learning process, as opposed to the traditional read-write-and-test standard. The NUVHS online learning environment is active, engaging, cooperative and adaptive to each studentís learning preference.
A major component of Project Based Learning is the 25:1 student-to-teacher ratio. With the understanding of the studentís personal learning preferences, visual, auditory, or kinesthetic, instructors can provide a more relevant academic experience.
NUVHSís faculty takes the SAP information and creates opportunities for each student that rely upon his/her learning style. By tailoring courses to each student, using the latest multi-dimensional technology, and having teachers who specialize in virtual instruction, students learn math, English, science, and social studies in their own way.
Moreover, the program stretches beyond the traditional feedback of grades by providing students more ways to express their individuality. Students are given the opportunity to create an e-portfolio which can then serve as a showcase to potential employers and universities, detailing their projects and achievements.
By creating projects that honor a studentís learning style, students are more likely to be enthusiastic learners and build skills that employers want and need most: The ability to take initiative, to work well with others, to make thoughtful decisions, and to solve complex problems.
Another benefit to Project-Based Learning is that it allows students the chance to study across disciplines. In fact students are encouraged to connect coursework to their individual learning goals, and communicate with experts beyond the classroom, via the Internet.
Another benefit of Nationalís program is the completion of a full semester course in only eight weeks. This format, though accelerated, provides students the opportunity to focus their energies on just a few subjects at a time Ė but still allows them to cover all curricula required in an academic year.
NUVHS offers five eight-week sessions per year. Classes will begin each September, November, January, March, and at the end of June.
For students who may be failing a class mid-semester in their traditional school they can complete a course with National and stay on track for graduation at their regular schools.
NUVHS offers a vast world of options for students. Whether a student is looking to replace traditional high school or merely supplement, NUVHS can meet those needs. For example, students can complete all required high school courses for grades 9 through 12. Or, if they choose, they can simply take a single course that may not be available or convenient to take at their regular school.
Two examples of situations this virtual high school program can assist with, are students who want flexibility in their schedule during an athletic season, or if they live far away from the nearest high school. This program is also ideal for students with parents whose careers make it difficult to stay in one place for long. Students who need to make up lost credits, need an advanced placement course or are physically unable to attend a regular class would find this program beneficial, as well.
The homeschooled student is the one this program probably fits best. Homeschoolers in their teen years often have a rich and active life. They can have part time jobs, membership in clubs and organizations, dedication to hobbies, sports, theater arts or music. The flexibility of the NUVHS program allows them to reach their academic goals and still participate in their activities.
If all of this sounds too good, your next question may be the all-important, "Are they accredited?" The answer is that they are on their way. NUVHS is currently pursuing accreditation with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Accrediting Commission for Schools. NUVHS welcomed a visiting team from WASC to the school on October 6, 2004 for their initial candidacy visit. The visiting committee will prepare a report to present to the WASC Accrediting Commission for Schools. If the Commissionís action is favorable, the school will be granted either candidacy or interim accreditation for a term not to exceed three years. NUVHS will also pursue accreditation through the Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation (CITA), the official accrediting agency for distance education schools.
I have provided you with a basic overview of the program. Next month we will take a deeper look, outlining the types of classes offered, and getting a closer look at what itís like to be a student at National University Virtual High School. C.R.
[Please see NUVHS ad on p. 35 and visit their website: www.nuvhs.org.]
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