Christy Crandall-Bean is the guidance counselor at Bolivar-Richburg and has expressed many times that she believes online learning provides opportunities and flexibility that students may not otherwise have in a typical classroom. She sat down and talked to me about the online program that has been going on for about 3 years. “We tend to use the online classes for credit recovery and to expand on electives and very particular courses that we don’t offer here if students have special interests and things like that.”
This year there are four students at Bolivar-Richburg taking classes through Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES and online providers, including FuelEd and Edgenuity. All four students have very different reasons for taking online classes. Meghan wanted to try out environmental science before committing to it as a major in college. After taking the course for a number of weeks, Meghan decided to make her course a half credit and go in a different direction for her educational plan, but the online class gave her the opportunity to try out her options. She was able to assess what she might encounter and make an informed decision about her future career plan.
Another student needed a credit recovery option and is taking her course online, getting the credit she needs by working on it during what would normally be a study hall. Dedicated teachers, both online and at her school, offer assistance with difficult material. Material that the student already understands is reviewed and if she passes a quiz, she doesn’t have to spend more time on material she already knows.
Two students are taking Creative Writing, a course that has been offered in the past at Bolivar-Richburg, but didn’t have enough student interest this year to offer it. The online option gave those students an opportunity to take the course anyway. Bella is taking Creative Writing because she wants to be a teacher. When I asked her to tell me about her course, she said, “it definitely helped me progress through my writing because it helps me self edit and make it more complete before I send it to other people.” Bella’s favorite thing about her course was peer review and interacting with other students. “They just helped by encouraging you of what you can do better and things you can change to help your writing. You get to comment on their stuff and you can kind of talk back and forth about writing that everyone gets to see.
Tim is taking Creative Writing because he enjoys writing on his own time. Through the course, he found ways to publish his work through Teen Ink, an online student journal. Tim has published numerous poems and short stories on Teen Ink and was proud to tell me that “Brown Colored Pit Bull” was voted 4th for a week in best realistic fiction by his peers.
I asked Christy Crandall-Bean if she had any concerns about online courses and she told me, “I guess my main concern is just when teachers are leery of it and fearful that it will impact day-to-day teaching. That’s not our intention; it’s really to open up more possibilities.” Christy went on to talk about her wishes for the online program. “In my dream world, I would love for each one of my students to have to take an online class before they graduate. Because then they get used to that netiquette and communicating with their teachers online appropriately and I think that just a huge piece as well, not just the content, but maneuvering all the software and everything.” Most importantly, the students like the courses they’re taking. When I asked Bella if she would take another online course, she said without hesitation, “Definitely.”
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES