District moves to enlarge online course curriculum



Two-thirds of Monroe County students are willing to try online courses, according to a survey the school district conducted last month. It’s part of the district’s effort to launch its summer distance-learning curriculum, headed by Barbara Cavanah, the district’s technology specialist.

According to Cavanah’s survey, taken by nearly 1,000 students at Key West, Coral Shores and Marathon high schools, 53 percent of respondents have never taken an online course.

The survey is part of Monroe Virtual Academy’s program to increase the number of courses students take online. Online courses are considered more effective, less costly, while giving students more options when taking classes.

When given a choice of summer online courses, 65 percent said they’d like to take the Health Opportunities through Physical Education course, which helps students assess their current physical condition, apply fitness training principles to workouts, requires students to maintain a workout log, set physical fitness goals and reach them, according to a course description on Virtual Learning Academy, which is not affiliated with the district.

After the HOPE course, which is a requirement for graduation, most students said they’d like to take an online journalism course; in third place is an online course called “Great Books” this summer.

The district has been integrating Internet classes a step at a time and requires students to take at least some portion of their classes that way.  Other courses the district could offer, based on student preference, include Spanish, English and Honors English, marine science and honors marine science.

More students will take online courses, a mix of online content and teacher video streaming from the classroom. According to the district, 70 percent of students have not yet completed their graduation requirement, and in the next three years, about 2,000 students will have to take the HOPE course.

A company known as Beanstalk Innovation might help the district develop its online curriculum, including a version of the HOPE course that could be owned by the district, according to a presentation Cavanah gave the School Board March 11.

The cost to develop online learning is about $84.000, which covers Beanstalk’s consulting services, course development, and outsourcing hosting services, Cavanah told the school board.


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