Online Advanced Placement courses are being taken by more than 200 Long Island high school students as the New York cooperational services partnerships — BOCES — push increased access to college-level courses in the south of the state.
An initiative funded by a $2 million state grant to a Nassau BOCES-led consortium that includes both Eastern and Western Suffolk BOCES, is offering eight online AP courses to 15 districts. According to officials, a further six new virtual Advanced Placement courses are in development and will be available in September.
"We're pioneers," said Chris Mangum, department coordinator for music at Long Island High School for the Arts in Syosset. "It's going to be the future of education." He is arranging a virtual AP music theory course for the BOCES program.
As reported by Siobhan Barton of Newsday, College Board, a Manhattan-based nonprofit also known for the SAT and PSAT assessments, administers Advanced Placement courses. High school students can use them to fulfill college-level requirements if they perform well enough in AP courses.
"It's an opportunity for our students that they wouldn't have otherwise," said Gerard Poole, assistant superintendent for curriculum and construction in the Freeport school district.
Poole said that in the past, if only five students were enrolled, Freeport and other districts could not afford to hire teachers for an AP course. According to a public information officer at Nassau BOCES, Angela Marshall, while the expense of traditional AP classes varies in each district, it costs more to offer the courses on-site than it does online. Nassau BOCES coordinator Regina Moraitis believes that the online AP courses will provide opportunities for districts that previously could not offer certain AP courses on their own.
Savings on textbooks comes along as the grant also supplied schools with new technology, including iPads, laptops and printers. However, there's skepticism about the shift from face-to-face to virtual interaction.
"The delivery aspect from teacher to student — is it making a difference in learning?" said Ellen Moore, administrative coordinator at Eastern Suffolk BOCES. "Although teachers are learning a new medium to share . . . information, the methodology stays the same."
Children, as natives of the digital age, may be more receptive to virtual learning, suggested by Moore. Additionally, she said that a personal interaction between student and teacher will always be needed.
"I think that education is about being together," [Mangum] said, adding that the real challenge is to figure out which materials transfer best through online courses.