As students return to the classroom, there are an increased number of resources for them as schools expand online learning opportunities. These opportunities help prepare them for college and the workforce, and include classes that offer alternative ways to learn.
In Massachusetts, some districts are enhancing the individual online classes that are offiered. However the second virtual school is the state, based in Walpole, is offering classes for the first time.
The TEC Connections Academy will join Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual school as the state’s two virtual public schools. This is the result of an application that was approved by the state earlier this year.
“We think that every student should have an online course experience at graduation,” said Liz McGonagle, executive director of The Education Cooperative. “You have to have this skill.”
The schools are open to students across the state and districts fund them based on the number of their students attending. TECCA officials estimated having about 650 students enrolled though it can serve up to 1,000.
Meanwhile, many districts are undertaking their own online efforts, ranging from teachers maintaining websites to holding blended learning courses that are part online and part classroom-based to offering individual online courses.
A state digital learning survey this year of about half of Massachusetts districts found that more than 50 percent of responding districts reported using digital textbooks; more than 80 percent use free educational resources, teacher-created digital materials, and/or subscription-based supplemental materials; and more than 50 percent use subscription-based video streaming.
Some school leaders, though, caution that a completely virtual education takes students away from social interaction with peers and face-to-face learning with a teacher.
TECCA, McGonagle said, relies on more than just students reading off a computer screen. It plans to offer clubs and field trips. And, classes are taught by certified teachers who communicate regularly with students.