Fast times at cyber high
Most of the courses sound serious and interesting: Web Design and Internet Research, International Diplomacy, Electric Vehicle Technology. A few sound more frivolous and fun, like The Tenor Sounded Like Someone Dropped a Rock on His Toe. And they’re all offered on the Virtual High School Web site, a project run by the nonprofit, Massachusetts-based Concord Consortium.
Concord, one of a growing number of groups-including universities–offering online classes to high-school students, is in the fourth year of a five-year, $7.8 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Education. It offers about 100 courses through 110 schools. In exchange, each school’s students can take virtual classes offered by other schools, says project coordinator Kristin Barr. Concord gives all participating teachers a 26-week training course before setting them loose on the Web.
These cyber-high schools are mostly filling niches that traditional schools, particularly those in low-income areas, can’t always afford to reach, like Advanced Placement, remedial, and college-preparatory courses. Concord offers a mix of A.P. and other courses, Barr says.
The company certifies each course before adding it to its catalogue, and quality control evaluations are continuous. There are, however, fears–especially if less reputable, for-profit companies get involved-that not all high-school Net courses will meet necessary high standards. But, then again, not all traditional high schools meet them either.
Copyright American Society for Engineering Education Jan 2000
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