Fort Cobb, OK – February 17, 2014 – When the World Wide Web went public in 1993 and the ban was lifted on its use for commercial purposes, few could foresee what the future held. Who knew just two decades later that “go to our website,” “message me,” or “upload it,” would dominate not only the way we talk, but also the way we live?
Technology is changing cultures, relationships, businesses and education. It has changed everything from the way people connect with others to the way they learn. The concept that has led to today's virtual classrooms has been around for years, but recent advancements in technology have made it more of a possibility, and, therefore, a reality, in several facets of life.
Many reasons are given for the need of virtual classrooms: Scheduling conflicts, access and course availability to name a few.
“We serve a large, rural district,” explained CKTC Superintendent Dennis Ruttman. “Consistently each year, we see our high school students have more and more difficulty enrolling in the CareerTech courses they want due to scheduling conflicts, athletics and credit requirements. This year we rolled out a pilot program and offered the first virtual classroom of its kind in the state.”
CKTC serves 14 partner school districts. Traditionally, students from those schools are bused to Fort Cobb, Oklahoma, each day to attend programs like Welding, Culinary Arts, Pre-Engineering and Cosmetology to name a few. This year, CKTC added a virtual classroom component to their Business program. More than 40 students have participated in the pilot program, where students receive CareerTech credit, high school credit and, through a cooperative alliance, college credit.
Initially, student services staff and administration visited each partner school to discuss the project and the course offerings. Counselors at each school then presented it to potential students and their parents. Once students were enrolled, Tricia Pierce, instructor of the virtual class, went to each of the schools to meet the students.
"I felt it was important [to] . . . put a name with a face," said Pierce. "It's been a learning curve for me, too. I have a roll sheet with the class times that the students are enrolled in the class. I check that sheet for my attendance; however, the students can log in at any other time during the day, whether at school or home to work on assignments. This works well for those students who are involved in school activities and may have to miss a few days. The students upload their assignments to the Moodle software and I grade it. I give the student feedback on assignments using email or the instant messages in the software."
Pierce also reported that students rarely use the webcam. "Most of the communication is via instant messaging or e-mail messages. Some telephone my desk, and we walk through some problems step-by-step."
Officials at CKTC expect to continue adding virtual classroom components to each of the programs offered at CKTC.
"I feel this is the future of CareerTech education," said CKTC Assistant Superintendent Vic Woods. "Over the years, many people have frowned on the concept of teaching outside the traditional classroom, but we are here to create opportunities for students to be successful, and we are seeing a tremendous amount of success with the students in this pilot program."
Cameron Horn, a high school student from Carnegie, Oklahoma, took the class so she could get college and high school credit.
"The best thing about the class is that it is convenient, and I can work at my own pace. It is different from traditional classes because I don't have to worry about moving on or going too fast," said Horn.
Like Cameron, Leah McDonald took the class to earn credit hours for college.
"Now, instead of attending college next year with very few credit hours, I will have several," reported McDonald, a high school student at Mountain View-Gotebo. "I would recommend taking the virtual class for three reasons. You can earn . . . college credit hours, and who wouldn't want that? You can work as fast as you want, [and] . . . you do not have to keep up the same pace as others. And finally, the class comes with a great teacher who cares about the grades you make and tries to help you."
Both Horn and McDonald agree that it is different from traditional classes because the teacher isn't in the same room. Instructor Tricia Pierce also says that not being in the classroom with a student is challenging.
"It takes a commitment from everyone involved: Students, teachers, each school district. I was trained, but I was venturing into the unknown, because I would still be teaching my regular, on-site classes too. I think we were all a little unsure, but it has been an amazing year. It has changed the way I look at the possibilities that a virtual education has in education today," said Pierce.
McDonald added that another challenge was she was one of the few in her school taking the virtual class since it was a pilot program, but she would highly recommend more students take advantage of the course. “It [allowed] me to work at my own speed and ask questions, but learn on my own,” she said.
“The Virtual BITE program offered through CKTC has been a wonderful experience for the seniors at Carnegie High School. They are gaining additional computer skills while earning college credit in high school,” reported JoLisa Knauss, Counselor.
More than 90% of the students who enrolled in the program are expected to complete the semester. Those who did not complete the semester, agreed they had not realized how rigorous the course would be, nor the self-discipline and commitment the program would demand of them.
With the first year almost behind them, and with the success rates, officials at CKTC anticipate the virtual classroom will see more course offerings and participation in the program next year.
More information about CKTC is available online at www.caddokiowa.com or by calling 405.643.5511.
CKTC serves a rural, southwest district that covers over 1900 square miles and 14 partner school districts. With transportation, access and depleting funds for education, students in the district are taking advantage of CKTC’s virtual classroom, a pilot program designed to meet the needs for today’s students.
Posted on Mon, February 17, 2014
by Susan McElhaney