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.
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