TRECA Digital Academy offers another alternative to traditional school in Marion, as reported by Kurt Moore of the Marion Star. While blended learning options such as Pleasant Community Academy and Rushmore Academy already exist, TRECA is a fully digital program.
All lessons are delivered online and students are expected to work a certain number of hours each week. Depending on the specific classes involved this can either be done independently or in a virtual classroom. Some courses have higher degrees of flexibility than others.
Jon Grega, a high school English teacher speaking on behalf of Ohio Connections Academy, said the benefit along with flexible learning schedules is that the school can offer more options. That could be more Advanced Placement courses, more foreign languages or other options that Grega said school districts with strapped budgets may not be able to afford to offer.
Grega noted that Ohio Connections Academy was the only statewide e-school rated ‘excellent’ by the Ohio Department of Education in 2010. This is in contrast to its e-competitor TRECA which was ranked as ‘academic watch’ — only one step above ‘academic emergency’. Both schools serve students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Grega said there’s also more of a chance to give students one-on-one attention through the online setting than in a traditional classroom. Classroom settings are small, there are less distractions than a regular classroom and teachers and students can interact directly because often not all students will be on at the same time. There are also online group tutoring programs available.
Adam Clark and Jenny Hooie, respectively the director and chief instruction officer of TRECA, claim that it offers the same statewide services as Ohio Connections Academy, but with the same flexibility and support for those wishing to accelerate their education experience and graduate early.
The academy, part of the TRECA information technology site that provides IT, fiscal and other services to area school districts, can also partner with the schools and offer online courses that they may not have in the schools.
“We are not out to steal kids from public schools,” marketing coordinator Andrew Talcott said.
The advent of online schools has proved a problem for public schools in other states however, who have seen an exodus of students from their own campuses to charter and online schools. A district in Pennsylvania recently set up its own online offering as a way to recapture the funding attached to the students who preferred attending an online school.
Online schools such as TRECA and Ohio Connections will have to adopt the Common Core academic standards being adopted by Ohio, and continued success will be dependent on students having the discipline to work from home. Grega encourages homes which make use of the online education option to have someone at home act as a learning coach for the student.