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Requiring online courses for high school students

Online courses are nothing new in the Buffalo area.

A number of local colleges offer online courses, and a growing number of degrees are available entirely online. To name a few: the University at Buffalo offers master's degrees in rehabilitation counseling, science and the public, and library and information science; Buffalo State College offers a master's in adult education; and Canisius College offers a master's in physical education.

But online courses for high school students? That's still a relatively new frontier locally, as well as nationally.

Computer class Memphis is one of the school districts that's leading the way in online learning for high school students. There, students are going to be required to take at least one online course to graduate from high school, the Commercial Appeal reports.

"We're using online sources to get children oriented to college and work force life, where a whole bunch of training and learning is happening online," Deputy Superintendent Irving Hamer told the Memphis paper.

This year, 2,736 Memphis students in grades eight through 12 are enrolled in online courses. The district offers 28 courses online, according to Betty R. Brown in Memphis' office of instructional technology.

Students can choose from a number of required courses, including English, algebra, geometry, chemistry, physics, economics, world history and Spanish. Electives include web page design, computer technology and keyboarding. Memphis even offers three advanced placement courses online: art history, computer science and microeconomics.

"Students may take courses from home, school, or anywhere they have a computer and high speed Internet," Brown wrote in response to questions from The Buffalo News. "[Memphis City Schools] also provides after-school computer labs for students, which are staffed with a site manager and in some cases, subject area tutors.

"Students are given access to all course materials with the exception of semester and final exams, which remain locked until all course requirements are met. When the requirements are fulfilled, students sign in at their home school on a designated date and take their semester exam.

"Each course includes mandatory oral components which are scheduled and completed by the online teacher.  This provides added accountability throughout the course by ensuring that the student is completing their own assignments."

Memphis students can also take "blended learning" classes -- also known as hybrid classes -- that combine traditional, face-to-face teaching with online teaching. Another 1,437 students are taking classes of this nature.

"In most cases, online courses are less expensive to implement and execute than traditional courses," Brown wrote. "The cost of implementing online courses decreases with each student enrolled, and enrollment is increasing each year."

 - Mary Pasciak

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

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Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |