SC High School Students Now Have More Online Course Options -

SC High School Students Now Have More Online Course Options

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Tracy Seiler teaches Latin online to students across SC. Tracy Seiler teaches Latin online to students across SC.

The state Board of Education got a briefing Wednesday on the new state law that expands the online course options for South Carolina students. Under the old law, a student could take no more than three credit hours per year through the state's virtual education program, and no more than 12 hours throughout high school. But the new law eliminates those limits, so students can take as many online credits as they want. They cannot, however, take all of their classes online to get a diploma.

Bradley Mitchell, director of the Office of Virtual Education at the state Department of Education, says there are lots of reasons students take online courses.

"We have students that work full-time that need to get the credits to graduate, so they can use the program. We have students that are ill, that need the credits to graduate. They may use the program. Students may have fallen behind in their schedule at school. We have a lot of different AP-level courses that some schools don't offer. We have some elective courses that schools may not offer as well," he says.

He says the state had more than 12,000 students take virtual courses this past school year. South Carolina ranks third in the nation for growth in online education. And of those students who took a course online, the completion rate was 93.3 percent.

The system also saves school districts money. If a district is having trouble finding a highly-qualified, certified teacher for a certain subject, it can contract with the state Department of Education to have those students take the course online. Instead of spending at least $32,000 for a teacher, which is the average starting salary, the district would pay $3,500 for the online course.

Tracy Seiler teaches Latin through the state's virtual education program. She says the online aspect of the classes gives students a lot more flexibility.

"They can get in and work at 3 a.m. if they want to, and we communicate via discussion boards," she says. "So what I did is I recorded videos and podcasts of the material, and then the students watch or listen to the material and then they get on the discussion board, and that's where they can ask questions."

She says students find that they have to be even more self-disciplined when they take a course online because there's work that has to be done and turned in, but they have to do it on their own. And just because the teacher isn't watching the students like in a classroom, she can still spot cheating.

"You get to know their work, just the same as you would in a brick-and-mortar school," she says. "Because really a student could go home and be doing their homework, say, and turn in something that doesn't belong to them."

And she says any student who thinks an online course will be easy learns quickly that's not true.

"There's a lot of work. They have to compose in Latin. They have to speak in Latin. They have to translate. They have to read and answer comprehension questions."

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