GWUOHS Offers A High-Tech Take On High School
Michael Tornatta, a student at the George Washington University’s Online High School, delivers a presentation last month. The school is one of three full-time online high schools in the nation.
Posted: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 2:19 pm
By Danielle Nadler Leesburg Today
High school education comes in many forms in Loudoun County. There are a handful of private schools, the 13, going on 14, public high schools, and of course the homeschool option–But there is a lesser-known option that is venturing into an uncharted educational concept—a high school that is 100 percent online.
The George Washington University Online Highschool teamed with K12 Inc., a for-profit online education company based in Herndon, to launch an independent private school that allows students to log in from anywhere.
The partnership clicked, Head of School Staci Kimmons said. The result is one of only three online high schools in the country.
The school started as a high school three years ago, and just this year added a middle school program. In that time enrollment has grown to 160 students. About 50 of those live in the Washington, DC, metro area and, Kimmons said, “The rest are literally around the world.”
Every one of the classes is online, but the school’s eight teachers work to make the virtual experience feel like a classroom setting. They have what’s called Class Connect sessions through the virtual learning website Blackboard.com where the teacher presents a lesson and students can ask questions and have discussions.
“The same way you would in a brick and mortar English class, they do that with Blackboard,” Kimmons said. “They are expected to attend class, and an advantage is if you miss a class or want to go back to a lesson you can always watch the recording.”
“It’s not what you would expect,” according to Becca Levy, who was one of 32 graduates from the school’s class of 2014 last month. “It feels like you’re in a community.”
Like any high school, GWU’s online high school has student clubs, including a school newspaper and yearbook, a service learning club and math club, among others.
Students can also take in-person enrichment programs, and join their classmates for the school’s annual international school trip—destinations have included Greece, Italy and Eastern Europe. Students are also invited to study under a university professor for a two-week Summer Immersion program, which Kimmons said, “lets them actually experience what it’s like to be a college student.”
GWU Online High School’s courses are rigorous and the school is selective in who they accept. Students are required to submit their transcript from their previous school, as well as an essay that illustrates why they can be successful at the online high school. Parents are also required to complete a questionnaire to indicate how involved they will be in their child’s education.
Parent involvement is key with online learning, Kimmons said. “A lot of people have a misconception that they’ll sign their student up for online high school, set them in front of a computer and they’ll take it from there. But students need help with time management, so we want parents to be involved and have conversations about their student’s progress.”
The George Washington University Online High School tuition is $12,000 for full-time high school students and $10,500 for full-time middle school students. They will host a 45-minute online open house at noon Thursday, July 10, and Tuesday, July 29. Go to www.gwuohs.com for more information.
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