- Union County Public Schools
Success of UC Virtual linked to one-on-one time with teachers
UC Virtual, Union County Public Schools’ online learning program, has just completed its largest enrollment since it began in 2013.
The program, with seven full-time teachers and three adjuncts, currently offers 35 courses, which includes everything from honors and advanced placement courses, to Spanish and art appreciation.
“We touch all parts of the curriculum,” said Garrett Williams, E-Learning Program and Development Coordinator. “We have more than 770 course enrollments for the spring semester. This is an enrollment increase of about 42 percent from the fall semester.”
“Our numbers have really skyrocketed,” said Kathy Glasheen, (pictured bottom left) a UC Virtual science teacher, who noted that there are lots of reasons students take online courses.
The program offers courses that may not be offered at the student’s home school. Some take online courses during the school year because they want to graduate early. Many students just like the self-paced aspect of online learning.
“It works really well for me,” said Central Academy of Technology and Arts junior Alyssa Levine, 16, who is taking a course on biomedical technology.
“I’m able to pace myself better and focus and spend more time on the stuff that I need to,” Levine said. “I’m also able to research more and look into stuff I don’t understand.”
CATA junior Dakota Kiker, 16, likes being able to set his own pace, but is also happy there is a teacher close by in case he needs additional help.
“This is my first online course, but I’ll probably take more next year; maybe more management courses or Spanish III,” Kiker said. “I’m taking Spanish II right now and it’s a little harder for me. I think online would be a better route for me to take Spanish or other languages.”
UC Virtual is an educational opportunity taught within the school system, and serves students in every high school in the county, and even in some middle schools.
“We’re an organization that offers online learning through a learning management system to offer flexibility and rigor to all students in Union County once they reach a certain level,” said UC Virtual teacher, Andrew Starnes, a social studies teacher of residents. “We’re in a unique position because there is nothing else like it in the county.”Glasheen explained that teachers visit all the schools (where they have students) on a rotating basis. “I might have 20 science students, but at nine different schools. So when I go to one school, I’m there to see maybe two students, but when I go to another, I might see 10. It all depends on the courses we’re teaching.”
What makes UC Virtual different from other online programs is the face-to-face learning that students have with their teachers.
“That really sets us apart,” Williams said. “There’s no other program like it in the state. A lot of school systems are starting to offer virtual learning, but a student will never meet his or her teacher in real time.”
“Our teachers actually meet with students in the lab,” Williams added. “They sit down one-on-one and in groups to help the students enrolled in their classes, and they provide general support to all UC Virtual students in the lab, as well.”
Another difference – all the virtual courses are created by Union County teachers. “We are creating community solutions for online learning that fit Union County,” Williams said. “You have Union County people building a Union County product for Union County students. Union County knows what’s best for Union County students.”
Brenda Drye, E-learning administrator, said virtual learning allows students to choose the type of learning methods that work best for them.
“We have some students who thrive in the online environment, who do not thrive in a face-to-face classroom,” Drye said. “This provides them that opportunity. It also provides students the opportunity to take courses that are not taught at their home school. It opens up course possibilities for those students.”
Levine said the caveat to online learning is -- students who take online classes have to be disciplined.
“It’s so easy to say, ‘Oh, I’ll do my work later.’ Then you run out of time, so I think it’s very important to stay on track with it and just really have a goal to finish your work and have good grades,” Levine said.
Many students also take UC Virtual “summer enrichment” classes to get ahead. There is also tutoring opportunities before and after school.
UC Virtual is currently taking enrollment for the summer of 2016, and fall and spring of the 2016-17 school year.
For more information, go to the UC Virtual web site.
Posted: April 20, 2016