Michigan State University Fall 2004 Memo To: Hope College Preparatory High School From: Nanette Wiesner – Curriculum Consultant Date: December 24, 2004 Re: Online Course Expansion The specific purpose of this memo is to provide documented information and opinions derived from this in support of expanding online courses for high school students at our unique educational institution. My premise is that offering additional modalities of learning will not only aid but catapult many students into a positive, motivationally and educationally enhanced learning experience. Bottom line rationale stems from a strong need for alternative means of learning required for subjects for purposes of graduation, and creating additional advanced level courses for those students who meet specific criteria. In essence, students could be offered an online version of a college prep United States history course traditionally taught at this time, and an advanced placement U.S. history course, not traditionally offered at this time. Based on the mission of our educational institution, both aforementioned courses grant students a means of accelerated course completion for purposes of entering college early or simultaneously. Further rationale perpetuates a self- generated, progressive, innovative, and inherently successful program of flexibility oriented online and hybrid courses, without sacrificing mandatory curriculum, instruction, standards, and assessment. With careful and deliberate planning and delivery, opportunity for student-instructor-peer collaboration will provide an exceptional and accessible learning option for a full range of learners and learning levels. Virtual high schools, such as Florida Virtual School, University of Missouri High School, and Federal Government five year pilot program Virtual High School, as introduced in Gene Maeroff’s A Classroom of One (260-266), have demonstrated that online learning can dynamically “enhance regular high schools.” Take into consideration the significant and effective values of high school online courses. No course, implemented in the true spirit and high degree of educational objectives, will lack the rigor, interaction, discussion, retention-rate, or continual assessment and evaluation, mandatory for engaging the student in strong, inquiry-based, well-rounded education. According to the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) and despite caution of thoughtless venture into a cyber age of learning, “e-learning is an innovation that should be implemented as soon as possible (Maeroff, 266).” With proper criteria and guidelines, such as those set up by appropriate accreditation institutions used in higher education, online courses will maintain integrity and quality expectations by the educational institution, students, parents, administration, and instructors alike. Maeroff lists key guidelines and considerations established by eight existing regional accrediting commissions (179-183). The guidelines will be dynamic as online learning must continue to be in order to grow and remain effective. Debates have centered within the effectiveness of online learning, and the obvious impact of technologically based learning for all levels of education. Online degrees and courses will not disappear, but neither will the traditional face-to-face classroom. No need to panic or feel that education is being compromised in the face of innovative learning. Introducing a course through a computer delivery system can serve to enhance and provide heightened strategies and methods of learning in a technologically advanced global society. Listening to one such debate between representatives of MIT, University of Phoenix, and critics, such as Carol Sargent who wrote Traditional Degrees for Non- Traditional Students, can serve to create a healthy and open channel of communication and justified considerations on both ends of the online learning spectrum. The above debate can be “computer” accessed at The Connection radio broadcast of “Online Education.” It is with strong contention that I recommend that this high school must increasingly offer sound and well orchestrated online courses. Despite the fear that online courses will take over the traditional classroom is like succumbing to training wheels never being necessary to riding a bike. In my opinion this is not going to happen. Foundation and principles of education will not disappear but rather gather strength through subject matter driving curriculum, not technology.