Expanding Opportunities for Students with Online Learning

by Wendy Kraft, NHCS Online Learning Supervisor

Mandarin Chinese, AP Human Geography, Digital Photography, and Honors Forensic Science are just some of the 150+ online courses to choose from in New Hanover County Schools (NHCS).  Currently, students are accessing approximately 1,600 online courses this semester alone.

Through the implementation of our online learning program, NHCS has continued to expand its opportunities for students at the middle and high school levels.  Our district utilizes North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) courses, along with a locally-created support structure to ensure that every student is positioned for success.  Participation in these online courses is free of charge for NHCS students.

In 2015-2016, our district proudly reported a 93% pass rate for initial credit online courses, which was 7% higher than the state average. The Credit Recovery pass rate for the district was 63%, which was 6% higher than the state.  NHCS remains the 3rd largest user of NCVPS courses in the state, behind Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake counties.

Several common questions arise when considering online courses:  Why take an online course? What does my child need to know to be successful? What supports are available? How can I be involved in my child’s online learning experience?  How do we enroll into an online course?

Let’s unpack these questions….

  • Why take an online course? High school students may take an online course because the content may not be offered on campus, such as many of the World Language courses and Advanced Placement (AP) offerings.  Other students opt to take an online course because it allows them greater flexibility in scheduling.  Still, others seek to take an online course in addition to their already full high school schedule as a means of accelerating.  Students often refer to this as taking a “5th block” class. NCVPS also offers Credit Recovery courses, which allow students who have failed a course to work at their pace to recover the credit towards graduation.  Online courses are also available to support students in the Occupational Course of Study pathway. At the middle school level, students may be interested in one of the middle school content elective courses not offered on their campus, or they may be approved to access a high school course to accelerate their pace in high school.  Note: Middle school students who access a high school course while in middle school earn high school credit for the course, but this course does not contribute toward high school GPA.
  • What does my child need to know to be successful in an online course? Online courses are not easier; they cover the same content…just in a different format.  Our online courses are web-based, so students can login and work anytime, anywhere.  NCVPS courses are taught by certified teachers and have classmates that may live across the state.  It’s a neat way to interact with peers outside of our community.  Students should dedicate 90 minutes a day, per course for semester courses and 45 minutes a day for year-long courses.  Logging in daily and regular participation in the online course is expected.  The online teacher will provide the student with feedback on their work, assist the student by explaining things when needed, and will work to connect the student with their peers through discussion forums.  However, the student will need to notify the teacher if they are struggling…you can’t raise your hand in an online course.  So, students are encouraged to use the tools embedded in the course and when in doubt, contact the assigned NCVPS teacher.
  • What supports are available? As with any course, the teacher is the best source of support.  Additionally, NCVPS offers Virtual Buddies and Peer Tutoring sessions for all courses. Several courses, such as World Language courses, integrate a weekly, live coaching session as well.  As a district, NHCS is committed to ensuring that we are wrapping our online learners in layers of support.  Each school has an E-Learning Advisor to ensure that students are appropriately advised and scheduled for optimal success in the online courses. There is an NCVPS lab on each campus. It is facilitated by a Virtual Academy Coordinator, who supports students with navigation, progress monitoring and advocating efforts.  Between the resources available, both online and those available on campus, we are confident that NHCS students are positioned for optimal success!
  • How can I be involved in my child’s online learning experience? All NCVPS courses are now taught in Canvas.  This platform allows parents to sign up in the child’s course as an “Observer.”  With the observer role, parents can log in and view their child’s online classroom – exploring the instructional delivery, grading practices, work submitted and have a direct connection with their child’s online teacher. Just as with any face-to-face course, NHCS strongly encourages parents to become involved in their child’s online learning experiences.
  • How do we enroll into an online course? To explore online course options that might be a strong match for your child, please contact his/her school counselor or E-Learning Advisor.  Click here for a listing of school E-Learning Advisors.

For program information, please visit http://www.nhcs.net/onlinelearning/ or contact NHCS Online Learning Supervisor Wendy Kraft at wendy.kraft@nhcs.net or 910-254-4235.

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