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Parkway e-News Story
Virtual Learning Coming to Parkway
Next fall, Parkway will begin offering online courses to high school students. It is the first and only St. Louis area school district to include online learning in its curriculum.
“If students have hectic schedules and can’t take a traditional class to fulfill a requirement, they will be able to do it online and study anytime, anywhere,” says Tom Swoboda, Parkway technology coordinator. Swoboda was instrumental in helping develop the online virtual learning environment for students.
Kailey Brown, a North High junior, jumped at the chance to sign up for Sociology, one of six online courses offered next fall. “It feels like an individual class just for me,” says Kailey, “because I can work at my own pace and on my own time. Once I am finished with one assignment, I will move on to the next one.”
Besides Sociology, Parkway’s online classes will include Health Education, AP Statistics, AP Art History, Personal Finance and Virtual Foundations of Video Game Design.
In the first week of registration last fall, all six courses were filled. With that kind of demand, Swoboda would love to offer more online classes in the future. Parents have already started to request more online classes for their children. Mark Harter, a west area parent, eventually hopes to see online summer classes so students can stay “plugged in” to school all year.
But Swoboda says online classes take considerable time to develop. “We want to make sure we have the resources and time to evaluate the first six online classes before introducing more.”
For students and teachers alike, the preparation time for online classes is similar to traditional classes.
In fact, virtual learning embodies the same recipe for success as traditional learning. Swoboda says students need the following characteristics to succeed:
- Self-discipline (to set aside time to read and complete assignments and meet deadlines from teachers); and
- Writing skills (since writing is the primary form of communication between students and teachers).
Shane Blair, a South High junior considering a career in medicine, is one such highly disciplined student. He signed up for AP Statistics next fall so he could better prepare himself for online college classes. “Many of my friends take online classes at college, and I want the online experience too,” he says. “I am not sure what to expect, but I am really excited.”
Mischa Perez, a North High junior, believes her online class in AP Statistics will mimic a college classroom. “I will be in charge of my own learning,” she says.
As more of the world goes online, virtual learning aligns with Parkway’s overall mission of “ensuring our learners understand and respond to the challenges of an ever-changing world,” says Keith Marty, Parkway superintendent.
“I am very proud that as we enter the world of virtual learning, we do so with Parkway curriculum being taught by Parkway teachers,” adds Marty. “This is quite different from many other institutions who contract with external companies to provide online instruction. Too often the curriculum does not match the rigor and relevance of the Parkway curriculum.”
“Online classes enhance and supplement the traditional learning environment,” adds Swoboda. “In no way will online classes take away from the foundation and importance of traditional Parkway schools.”