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Dallas High senior Anthony Bustos, right, and virtual classroom online coordinator Bob Mahoney look over an online language arts lesson Monday.
February 12, 2013
DALLAS -- When Dallas School District decided to expand its online class offerings this school year, administrators weren't sure how many students would be interested.
With 200 students taking 479 classes, enrollment is one of the many upsides to the new program.
The program, offered through a contract with online school e2020, provides required and elective classes to students in grades 6-12. Classes are taught by certified teachers with a Dallas High teacher assigned to oversee the program, review work and advise students.
Those taking e2020 courses have the option of accessing classes at DHS's computer lab or working at home.
"One of the really nice things about this program is that it is really a virtual classroom, where the lessons -- even though they are taped -- actual teachers give them," said Brian Green, an assistant principal at DHS. "We felt it had academic rigor that was comparable to taking an actual class (at a school)."
Like classes taken in the traditional format, parents have plenty of opportunity for updates on their child's progress, even daily, via email. Students also are provided progress reports each time they log in and can request direct assistance from the instructor through email.
Another unique feature is that e2020 classes move at the students' pace. Students can set starting and finishing dates and the program will create a calendar for lessons, assignments and tests to keep them on track.
Students Gabe Richert and Anthony Bustos said that is one of the best aspects of the program. Both are using the program for "credit recovery," or retaking classes they weren't able to pass in previous years.
Richert said the program doesn't require students to relearn material they've already mastered. Each lesson has a pretest and students who pass it with a high percentage can skip those lessons.
Bustos, a senior, said thanks to that, he was able to cruise through several lessons in a short time. He is on track to finish his English 10 class early. Richert, a junior, finished his health I class during the first semester.
Green said the workload for e2020 classes is similar to those of traditional formats, so students do have to put in the time.
Richert said he prefers traditional classes, but said e2020 is a good option for students who need to retake classes.
"It's not really that hard to make it up on e2020," he said.
Credit recovery is only one of the reasons students choose to use the program, Green said. Students who can't fit a class into their schedule or want to take an elective otherwise unavailable can use the program.
Bustos said if e2020 had been available when he was in his freshman or sophomore years, he would have taken more online classes.
"I would recommend it to freshmen and sophomores who want to graduate early because it's definitely something you could do pretty easily," he said.
Green said one of the most pleasant surprises about e2020 is how many home-school students have expressed interest in the program. Currently, 28 home-school students are enrolled.
"I've got to say that being able to talk to some of the home-school families and being able to provide something to them has been a really positive experience for me," Green said. "I'm hopeful we are establishing relationships to where we can serve all students in the Dallas area."