When a school is spread across Minnesota via laptop computers and Internet connections, it is critical to have a force of teachers behind the scenes to maximize learning and provide support.
Minnesota Virtual High School (MNVHS) enrolls 400 full-time and 250 part-time students. With the ebb and flow of student needs, the student body can swell to 800. All required courses are offered through the Minnesota public high school.
Online students typically need flexibility to complete high school. Some have family or employment responsibilities and others avoid the regular high school scene due to bullying or temptations to use drugs or alcohol.
The 2016 fall semester starts on August 29, when students register for a full load of six classes. Each runs for an hour daily on weekdays. At mid-term, on October 17, students can enroll for only three classes in two-hour blocks. This allows students to take on three courses and, at an accelerated rate, finish by the end of the semester.
Although course work is based on online reading and tests, Minnesota Virtual High School places a strong emphasis on teachers giving students feedback on a regular basis. This can be texts, emails or phone calls, whatever is best for the student.
Technology allows teachers to be up to date on the student’s progress and gauge their comprehension.
“Teachers provide feedback on the quality of their submitted work, where they did well, where there is room for improvement and the expectation of progress at this point in the class,” said Director Bill Glenz.
“Our teacher interaction is what makes MNVHS stand out,” said Glenz. “We provide feedback to students on a regular basis.” This can happen with “Chat Office Hours” online, when a number of students are checking with the teachers. Students also receive regular feedback from their teachers on their submitted work, as well, and able to schedule individual and small group tutoring sessions with their teachers.
Community service projects happen through “MNVHS Community Cares,” which brings together staff and students for volunteer work. A group of nearly two dozen students along with MNVHS staff members packed food for Feed My Starving Children. In addition, students from around the state sent in photos from their own volunteer community efforts.
Over the past year, MNVHS conducted a pilot program, PEASE Academy Online, by partnering with PEASE Academy, one of the oldest and most established recovery schools in the country. It serves students who have completed treatment programs and are ready to resume high school, but don’t want to risk their recovery by returning to their previous high school, a place where they might reconnect with social pressures to resume using. After a test run in the spring of 2016, this program is now up and running for any Minnesota student.