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Virtual High School

Alger Learning Center & Independence High School
Click to visit the web site
Compliments a Homeschooler ’s Education
with Unique Electives

VHS, Inc.
Virtual High School
3 Clock Tower Place Suite 200
Maynard, MA 01754
Ph: 978-897-1900;
F: 978-897-9839
www.govhs.org

By Linda Pliagas

The educational wave of the future is online distance learning and VHS, Inc. (Virtual High School) is leading the way by offering unique courses that are unavailable in brick-and-mortar institutions. The non-profit school has been in existence since 1996 and prides itself in providing students with “a quality educational experience,” says Mr. Dana Koch, director of global services.

Each course is taught by a certified teacher, the majority of the instructors at Virtual High School have a master’s degree. Koch says that many of the professors choose the courses they teach “out of the passion” they have for the subjects.

Teachers at Virtual High School frequently monitor student activity, so they are aware if a student is falling behind. The experience is “as close to a classroom experience as you can get without everyone being in one room at the same time,” Koch explains.

One of the biggest challenges for online students is being able to communicate easily with teachers and other classmates. With this obstacle in mind, Virtual High School has made it easy for students to have direct access to their instructors in a variety of different ways. Koch says that students can post a question to other members in the class or they can post a question on the general discussion board or they can communicate one-on-one with their teacher.

“Student participation is one of the essential elements of the coursework,” says Koch. One of the ways VHS enhances the development of critical 21st century skills is by assigning “collaborative team projects.”
While many online courses are self-paced, which can make it difficult for students who lack discipline and structure to stay motivated and engaged in the class (I know this from personal experience), Virtual High School operates on a semester basis and enrolled students need to keep up with the progress of the class.
Virtual High School offers over 200 full semester courses in Arts, Business, English Language Arts, Foreign Language, Life Skills, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, and Technology. VHS also offers Advanced Placement (AP) classes, but their academics are not typical of what one would find in the neighborhood high school.

“We are really focused on developing unique courses that are not available at a brick-and-mortar school,” says Koch, adding, “We offer innovative and very unique electives that you cannot find elsewhere.”

Some of Virtual High School’s business classes that caught my attention were “Investing in the Stock Market”, “Entrepremeurship: Starting Your Own Business” and “Personal Finance”.

In today’s tumultuous financial environment, it’s important for homeschoolers to learn the basic fundamentals of finance early on to carry them on to an economically sound and stable adulthood.

I was so intrigued by the business course descriptions that I asked Koch if adults could take classes at Virtual High School. He replied, “We restrict access to the courses to students of or about high school age. We want to make sure that students are at similar development levels and that we provide a safe online environment.”
VHS, Inc. offers classes for middle-school aged children all the way up to high school. Older students in their late teens, up to the age of twenty, are also encouraged to apply.

Another aspect that differentiates Virtual High School from other Internet schools is the size of the virtual classrooms. While many online schools offer classes that are open to an endless number of students, which may hamper the amount of individual attention they receive, VHS, Inc. limits the course to only 25 students.
“These courses are virtual classrooms. It’s a cohort of students working their way through the semester,” Koch explains. Virtual High School not only accepts individual students, but more than 500 brick-and-mortar schools currently participate in Virtual High School. “We have schools in 29 different states and 34 different countries,” Koch says.

Originally, when VHS developed its coursework back in 1996, after receiving a federal grant, they developed a business model that formed like a membership. VHS was intended to serve schools and institutions, which needed to supplement and expand their curriculum to include additional elective offerings. Soon after, VHS began to serve individual students and homeschool families as well.

Online educational institutions, such as VHS, have expanded beyond their original role of merely supplementing rural schools to include the education of students living in cities around the globe. Mr. Koch foresees that online schools will continue to grow in prominence and predicts that a more “blended” style of teaching and learning will evolve. More and more traditional schools will also begin to utilize Internet-based educational programs as well, he says.

For more information about Virtual High School, Inc. please visit: www.govhs.org.

 


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