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Online Education, Part 3

By Michael Leppert

In this third installment of our Online Education Resources, it seems helpful to reiterate one of the most important aspects of distance online learning, no matter what the grade level a student is involved in: This method of learning is not for everyone, just as homeschooling is not for everyone -- and for most of the same reasons. Personal drive, motivation and self-discipline on the part of the student, are of utmost importance in using online distance learning resources. This isn’t to say that your child has to be completely adapted to self-guided work, but s/he has to be prepared to become so adapted. The best online programs offer direct interfacing between the student and the instructor, so that the atmosphere is not one of a free-for-all, but of careful attention to the student, even if it is by computer connection. For each institution, please see their System Requirements, as some offer slightly different forms of service.

Ablaze Academy - www.ablazeacademy.com - info@ablazeacademy.com - Gr 1-12 - Toll free: 877-899-9985 - 300 North Julia, St. Mary’s, GA 31558
The first online school to be discussed in this issue is relatively new to the national homeschooling world. Ablaze Academy, based in Georgia, is fully accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Independent Study. This Commission’s purpose is to provide accreditation to alternative educational programs, including those online. Ablaze is also accredited by the Georgia Accrediting Commission. This makes its graduates acceptable for consideration for admission by the Georgia State University System and most private universities in the state. Ablaze offers a complete service from entrance at Grade 1 to the issuance of a high school diploma upon graduation. They provide assessment, real-time tutoring (in single-question or broader subject format), when and if needed, a complete computer-based curriculum and teaching system and all aspects of the student’s work are recorded for parents to examine -- on a daily basis. For the high school division, each 9th grade student is assigned an advisor who works with the parents, the student and the Academy to prepare an academic schedule that meets college and the Academy’s requirements. A broad array of college prep courses are available, including 27 different foreign languages, Calc II, Chemistry II and interactive Science labs. Ablaze maintains transcripts, suggests courses and provides the diploma upon successful completion -- just like bricks & mortar! Ablaze Academy’s tuition is also reasonable in light of the fact that this is virtually an accredited private school. Special Note: Since homeschoolers have previously experienced occasional problems with admissions to some Georgia universities, anyone interested in attending a school there should inquire into and seriously consider Ablaze Academy.

University of Colorado at Boulder - Independent Learning Program (High School & College) • Website: http://www.colorado.edu/cewww/contactus.htm • Div of Continuing Education & Professional Studies, 178 UCB 1505 University Ave, Boulder, CO 80309-0178 - Denver: 303-492-5148 Toll-free outside Denver: 800-331-2801
The Economist came out with a ranking of top universities in the world and the Univ. of Colorado at Boulder was ranked #11 of all public universities in the world! Their online offerings are the same high quality, with the same credits, as those offered at the campus. This top-notch university offers an excellent value for the online student, by charging the instate tuition or even less in some instances. Some universities and colleges charge the out-of-state rate, which does not seem logical for online courses. The U of C, Boulder has been offering correspondence courses since 1912, and the transition to the online mode was a natural for them. Besides the traditional correspondence courses, the school now offers two online forms -- a semester based and self-based. In the self-based form, the student has one year from the start date to complete a certain course. A one-year extension can be granted for extra fees and a passing grade must be achieved within the one-year limit.
The University also offers a very popular high school/college concurrent enrollment program, wherein a student with proper permission, can receive completion credit for both levels -- high school and college. Interested parents should contact Ms. Catherine Tisdale, the Advisor for Continuing Ed, at 303-735-5456 to gain information regarding any testing requirements, etc. Recently, the school has been increasing its focus on homeschoolers because they tend to be well-motivated and so many are college-bound. A university does not achieve the impressive ranking mentioned above without being aware of what makes for an excellent academic candidate and how to attract him/her to the school. The University currently has 4,000 online students enrolled in both undergrad and graduate divisions. For details, please visit the website shown above.

Internet Homeschool - http://www.internethomeschool.com - 3060 Hozoni Rd., Prescott, AZ 86305 928-708-9404 K-12 online programs.
Internet Homeschool, founded in 1997, is fully accredited by the North Central Assoc of Colleges & Schools and by the Commission on International & Trans-Regional Accreditation (CITA ), which handles programs that cross regional boundaries of the six accrediting associations.

The complete program offered by Internet Homeschool includes math, English, science, handwriting, spelling, social science, health, computer science, Spanish I and II, French I and II, and art history. (Only P.E. has to be supplied by the parents and notification sent to IHS for addition to the student’s transcripts.) To high school juniors and seniors, IHS also offers a choice of three electives programs designed to focus on the skills required to be a successful adult, beyond the purely academic. These include “contract learning” which is somewhat like a work-study approach, prompting the student to make a commitment to learning life skills through working with an outside mentor or professional in the field of the student’s. choice. For instance a student may become involved in community theatre in set design, acting, production, etc. This approach requires a sufficient level of maturity from the student to provide excellent training for equivalent real-life commitments. There are two high school Paths offered. The first is not a college prep program, so that once completed, if the student wishes to continue on, two years of junior or community college will be necessary to satisfy the foreign language and higher math requirements of four-year colleges. The other is the College Prep path, which includes all credits necessary to satisfy college admissions. IHS also offers assessment testing and complete online grading and transcript service. The parents can choose the Non-graded program which costs less than the Graded program. The tuition and annual fees are reasonable, especially for the high school programs.

No. Dakota Div of Independent Study (NDIS) - http://www.ndisonline.org/ISC/catalog/email.html ndis.enroll@sendit.nodak.edu - Gr 5-12 • 1510 12th Ave. N., Fargo, ND 58105; Ph: 701-231-6000
Accredited by both the North Central Assoc. Commission on Accreditation and the School Improvement Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation (CITA ). This program differs significantly from the others mentioned so far in that although it will deliver coursework via the Internet, all exams must be conducted under the oversight of a third-party supervisor who must then fax or U.S. Mail the exam to NDIS. It is preferred by NDIS that this supervisor be a teacher, although they will accept librarians and clergy as supervisors. In the case of traditional homeschoolers, this might be a drawback; in the case of those who have been in the school system, it would not be a drawback.

Therefore, this program is perfect for a school student who may wish to have the flexible schedule NDIS can offer, but who still has contact with the local school district. In general, this program is much like a correspondence school with Internet access. There are two teaching fees: Resident and Non-Resident, the Non-Resident fee is $97 per course plus a $22 fee for each one-semester course, but a discount is offered for students taking more than five and more than 20 one-semester courses. The textbooks are sometimes available at discounts, if not new, and NDIS offers a return policy on new books at the end of the school year. If a student can find the same book on his own, he is free to purchase it. Parents of children enrolled in school, who are contemplating removing the child from school and wish to have him/her learn at home, will be attracted to the NDIS program and structure. It provides the perfect transition for families in this category. They will easily be able to have an educator or clergyman serve as supervisor and will retain the feeling of school at home.

Keystone National High School • www.keystonehighschool.com; info@keystonehighschool.com • 420 West 5th St., Bloomsburg, PA 17815-1564; 1-800-255-4937; 570-784-5220
Keystone has been in the distance education business for over 30 years, beginning as a correspondence school and then adding the Internet-based program. Their current enrollment is over 20,000, making them one of the largest online providers in distance learning. They offer both a college prep track and a high-school diploma track so no matter what the student’s end goal is, Keystone is the right place to be. Keystone has worked with homeschoolers since its inception and it understands the needs of homeschooled high school students. Among their services are a free transcript evaluation and/or homeschool portfolio review for transitioning into Keystone; an atmosphere of student autonomy, so that students can set their schedules around work and family activities; diploma award upon completion of 21 credits, not all of which have to come from Keystone; a transcript that is accepted by such institutions of higher education as Indiana Univ., Univ of Illinois, Cal Arts, Notre Dame, NYU, Univ of Washington, Yale, Duke and Univ of Miami (FL). Keystone also provides updated reference material and information to aid the college-bound student in the application process and the faculty will provide letters of recommendation. Keystone also provides extra-curricular activities for students, such as a Photography Club and student Newsletter that help the student develop more than purely academic skills.

Keystone is accredited by the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools (NAAS) and the Distance Education & Training Council (DETC). Its accreditation by both was renewed in January, 2005. It also has core course approval by the NCAA and is licensed by the State of Pennsylvania.

Passport Learning, LLC • 1700 Wade Hampton Blvd, Greenville, SC 29614; 866-727-7576 www.passportlearning.com E-mail: passport@passportlearning.com
Passport Learning offers the personally-designed Home Version of its popular and powerful supplement, Reading Academy. The program, which functions as an intervention, rather than a main reading program, aids anyone over 8 years old, including adults, who may not even realize they have a reading weakness. Assessment testing is the beginning of the program, allowing the staff to target the individual’s weaknesses and then develop the appropriate course of study to address those weaknesses. Passport divides the possible weaknesses into three categories: Scanning, Auditory/Visual and Oral Expression. Passport is not a remedial program, which by Passport’s definition works slowly through the entire reading process to re-learn from the ground up. Rather Passport’s Reading Academy focuses on only the specific areas of weakness, allowing the student to concentrate on a smaller, pertinent, portion of the entire spectrum of reading skills. The final goal of Passport’s program is to increase what is called “automaticity” which helps the student develop comprehension and phase out having to concentrate on reading mechanics. Please visit Passport’s website for further information, pricing and ordering.

Weber State University, Ogden - http://wsuonline.weber.edu/default.asp • Distance Learning Office, 4010 University Circle, Ogden, UT 84408-4010; 801-626-6600
WSU Online provides over 300 courses online, set in a rigid semester-based structure, just as if you were on campus. The prospective online student has to check the class schedule to see if the desired course is available; then s/he has to be admitted to the university (if not already); then an account has to be set up by logging into a student portal. Then the student orders books and if living more than 50 miles from the Odgen campus, a test proctor has to be arranged for. This proctor can be in a local (for the student) testing center or an educator, librarian, etc. A significant tuition break is granted to those who are enrolled in the Online Campus only and will be taking only Online or ISP courses. Please see the website for the tuition chart. WSU offers an attractive alternative to students living in Utah who wish to complete coursework online or by correspondence. For a homeschooled graduate, seeking college courses, WSU might provide particular online classes that that student wished to take. Please check the online catalog for your particular needs.

Internet Academy - http://www.iacademy.org/ - E-mail: registrar@iacademy.org • 32020 1st Avenue S. #109, Federal Way, WA 98003-5743; 253 945-2230
In the form of the Internet Academy, Washington State boasts the granddaddy of online programs, developed on the watch of Tom Vanderark, who was the superintendent of the local school district in 1996, when the Internet Academy was created – one year after the Internet became available to private citizens! (Mr. Vanderark is now the director of the Gates Foundation.) He began a laptop experimental classroom program in the district and then started IA online with 20+ elementary math students. Within two years, IA expanded to include K-12. IA, a school-district based program, offers all core academic classes, which means that drama and music are not available, and P.E. will be offered in Fall, 2006. Currently, homeschooling families keep a log for 90 hours of P.E. and then submit a report to receive credit for completion. All IA curriculum is developed in-house, except for interactive math programs from Plato and APEX being utilized. Part-time students maintain their status as homeschoolers in the eyes of the State authorities; however full-time students at IA are viewed as public school students. This is one aspect that homeschool families need to be aware of. However, students can pay for 1 course out of 5, having the other 4 paid through the public school dollars, so they remain technically part-time. IA works particularly well for families wherein the parents feel comfortable teaching English or history, but are not comfortable with high school math. The Academy can provide a certified math teacher to assist the family. Attendance issues are a little different through IA, too: Homeschoolers are allowed to have more than a semester to complete a class but they can’t go 20 days without submitting work. IA sounds like an excellent program for homeschooling families who need a little bit of support. M.L. ■