WEST HOLLYWOOD/LOS ANGELES—In the fall, Los Angeles will commence operation of its first completely “Virtual High School.”  The school will cater to 9th and 10th graders, and a K-12 online institution is in the works for the near future. Over 650 students have already enrolled.

The project has been a long time in the making as students have become increasingly attracted to the virtual model.  People have been going online for their additional learning needs for quite some time, notably for remedial and advanced courses.  Over the past two years, the number of students enrolled in at least one online class in the LAUSD has grown. The program started off with 200 students in 2007, and it now has nearly 2,500 students.

This new school will allow non-traditional students, such as home-schooled children, to become part of the LAUSD; it will also make a wider range of advanced classes available to students at a lower cost for the school district, as teachers will be able to handle larger classes.

A report published in 2009 by the US Department of Education entitled “Evaluations of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning,” found that the online learning environment is extremely beneficial for students.  The virtual classroom allows students to flourish on average better than in the traditional school setting.

In the virtual classroom, web chats replace the face-to-face tradition.  The benefits include the wide range of higher technologies provided in an online setting including the child’s ability to engage in a multi-faceted multi-media mode of learning.  Online instructional material and videos permit students to learn the material at their own rate, while computers allow for faster note taking, which can enhance a student’s level of retention.  Chat rooms and discussion boards enable students to interact and ask their questions when they come to them, as opposed to only during the allotted class period.  Web chats simulate the traditional lecture method, and teachers will be able to hold meetings with a select group of students.

Wendy from West Hollywood, like most parents, can see the benefits, but she is also cautious in her praise. “There are so many distractions in the classroom, all those students who may be faster or slower than you. However, the thing they miss out on in this virtual setting is the social interaction and perhaps structure.  It becomes the responsibility of the parents to ensure the work is being done, [and] that their children are socializing at a normal pace as well,” said Wendy who used to be a teacher’s aide and whose daughter graduated from high school two years ago.

The project launches this fall, at which point students, teachers and parents will be able to experience the pros and cons of this new system—virtually, that is.  For more information, please visit the program’s website http://sites.google.com/site/onlinelearninglausd