The Virtual Learning Academy Charter School in New Hampshire is finding success in its online education model.
VLACS is the state’s online charter school, but it is also known for being the largest high school in the New Hampshire. Over 12,000 students in the state are enrolled in at least one class at the VLACS. The service began in Exeter School district but it has been growing rapidly since 2008. Moreover, it is available for free to students residing in the state.
Students think the best part of is that they can learn at their own pace. Since the school does not have fixed class periods, students can choose to attend the class in short intervals.
Many public school students take classes at VLACS to make up for the classes they failed, ensuring that they can still graduate with their classmates. Students who are facing suspension or expulsion would now be guaranteed ongoing education under legislation inspired by New Hampshire Kids Count, a child advocacy group.
20% of enrollees include students who wish to graduate early, earn college credit or take courses which are not available in their school. Another group of students, who enroll for these courses, are those who used to be homeschooled. Many students study full-time with VLACS.
VLACS has grown by an estimated 24% every year over the last 5 years. The school started with 700 students for half-credit classes in the first semester, but there are over 12,000 students this year.
Nearly every high school in New Hampshire has at least 1 student taking a VLACS class. The school now offers more than 100 different courses and employs 160 state-certified teachers.
Students involved in the school often go through the online curriculum on their own, but they also speak to the online teachers when needed. Most of them report that it helps that the interactions are always one-on-one.
Every month, the teachers at the institution schedule a meeting over a program similar to Skype where they also talk to the student’s parents. Oral quizzes also make up a significant part of the courses.
The teachers at VLACS can build own schedule and they have virtual office hours assigned when they are not busy checking scripts of taking classes. During these hours, they log into the online classroom and are ready to answer questions, along with responding to queries via e-mail or instant messenger.
An English Teacher at VLACS, Pauline Landrigan, thinks she spends all her time helping the students instead of teaching with a blackboard. “I taught in traditional schools and I got lured here, and I came kicking and screaming because I said ‘there’s no way kids can learn in a virtual world, got to have that face-to-face.’ Well, I’m nowhere because I believe this the best way to learn.”