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Schools to offer online courses

Upcoming freshmen now need a virtual class in order to graduate

By Kim Walter

Gov. Bob McDonnell's legislation requiring students to have an online experience to graduate high school goes into effect this school year.

According to the Virginia Department of Education's website, "Beginning with students entering ninth grade for the first time in 2013-2014, a student must successfully complete one virtual course, which may be non-credit bearing."

Area divisions have already started making some adjustments to help students meet the requirements.

Greg Drescher, Warren County Public Schools' assistant superintendent for instruction, said the division is approaching the requirement in a number of ways.

Starting this school year, Warren County schools -- along with many others across the state -- will be offering a required Economics and Personal Finance course using an online curriculum created by state Department of Education.

The county also uses an online course provider, "Apex," for students in alternative programs and for students who may need a course they are unable to fit into their schedule, Drescher said.

Students also have the option to take courses that might not be available in a classroom setting in the division through Virtual Virginia, another program offered through the state.

While those options should help fulfill the new requirement, Drescher said the division will be implementing additional ways for students to access content online during the next few years.

"This year our 7th grade science students will be accessing their textbook on Kindles which teachers can link to resources on the Internet, making this course part of that online experience," Drescher wrote in an email Friday morning.

Students who are already in high school do not have to adhere to the requirement, and Drescher said he feels the upcoming freshmen should have ample time to fit a virtual class into their schedule.

Frederick County Public Schools is working on making a personal finance course available online, according to Steve Edwards, Coordinator of Policy, Records Management, and Communications. The division already offers students other online courses for new credit or credit recovery.

"Other students may also have online learning built into a traditional class environment (also called blended learning), which appears to fulfill the new requirement," he wrote in a Friday afternoon email.

The state is also requiring that in order to receive a diploma, students must earn a board-approved career and technical education credential.

An online personal finance and economics course is one way that divisions can fulfill both requirements.

Drescher said he has "no problem" with either requirement.

"The online component, in the very near future will be no issue at all," he wrote. "Most textbooks offer an online version, many teachers already utilize online content and more and more "devices" are being used daily by our students."

"Online is fast becoming a tool of choice for instruction -- albeit a very powerful tool."

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com

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