Five years from now, Center Grove students might be able to take any course they need for graduation online.
The goal is not to do away with the typical classrooms, where students spend time with teachers and classmates. But allowing a student to take a required class such as Algebra I or English 10 online would free up time in their schedule to take a class that helps them learn about a potential career and would give student athletes and students who work more options in planning their day, online coordinator Joanna Ray said.
Center Grove schools started a program last summer called the global campus, which allowed students to choose from nine online courses, including health and wellness and probability and statistics. More than 150 students signed up for online courses last summer, and right now 114 students are taking online classes during the school year.
More than 400 students have signed up to take online courses this summer, and Center Grove is increasing the number of online classes offered to 17, including journalism and zoology. Ray wants the school district to continue growing the program, eventually offering all of the courses necessary for the Core 40 diploma online.
More students are signing up for the online classes because they free up their fall and spring schedules for other courses and electives, Ray said.
“They’re starting to see that global campus is solving a need for them and helping them overcome some scheduling challenges,” she said.
Center Grove students pay a technology fee for taking the online courses, and non-Center Grove students who take online courses during the summer are charged for tuition. That money pays for the development and maintenance of the online courses, and Ray said the school district doesn’t expect to make a profit.
Center Grove was the first local school district to develop and use courses that students can take without stepping into a classroom. A group of teachers at Clark-Pleasant schools started developing online courses in 2011, but the school district hasn’t decided how, when or if to use them. School officials from Franklin and Greenwood schools have said they want to see how other school districts, including Center Grove, use online courses before developing or using their own.
Its teachers are working to create more of the online classes students will need for graduation, such as Algebra II and English 10. Ray said the school district also is raising its expectations for students who want to complete the online courses away from the high school.
Right now students taking online courses have to earn at least a C in the course to be able to leave the high school for part of the day. Next school year, students will have to maintain at least a B in their online courses in order to leave for a few hours, she said.
Center Grove initially required online students to earn a C before leaving the high school because this was the first year for the online courses. But school officials want to raise the standards now that students have had a year to get used to what’s expected from an online class, Ray said.
“We’re raising the expectations for students now that they’re becoming more comfortable with the technology,” Ray said.
Raising those standards may mean that more Center Grove students will complete online assignments in the high school’s media center next year, and the school district is hiring a teacher who will make sure those students have the help they need to finish their online lessons.
The new teacher will spend part of the time teaching but also will work with students — especially those taking online courses for the first time — who get stuck or have trouble completing an assignment. Ray said that includes making sure students know how to email the teacher leading the online course they’re taking and helping students write emails in such a way that they’re clear in communicating what they don’t understand.
“Really it’s just dealing with students needing the support, making sure they get it,” Ray said.
The new teacher also will work with other Center Grove teachers as they develop more Internet-based lessons and assignments that students can complete on their school-issued iPads.
At this time, the online courses are open only to Center Grove students during the fall and spring semesters, as the school district would need to consider how to pay teachers for instructing students from other school districts. Expanding the online program to students from outside Center Grove isn’t a top priority, Ray said, but the district would consider the change if a student or school asked.
Center Grove students who take the online courses pay a $25 technology fee for each online credit. Students from other school districts also pay the technology fee and are charged $225 for the summer class. That money pays for the cost of continuing to develop and maintain the online courses, Ray said.
But other school districts can offer to cover the cost of the summer online courses for their students with money they receive from the state to pay for summer school programs. Center Grove will lower the price of the online classes for those students to $199 per credit hour, Ray said.