Schools develop online curriculum

Published 10:43 pm Monday, August 31, 2009

Forget about crowded hallways, noisy classrooms or even finding a table to sit at during lunch.

Suffolk Public Schools is developing a new way of getting high school credit without ever leaving home.

Desire2Learn is new online program developed by WHRO to facilitate online learning using required curriculum from high school courses.

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“We’re really excited about it,” said Christine Lafferty, the lead instructional technology teacher. “It’s just going to open doors for our students.”

The Desire2Learn program is not intended as an alternative for students in high school, but as a supplement for students. For example, the school system routinely gets transfer students from school systems on a four by four schedule. That schedule means they are only taking four classes every day for one semester, and will take four different classes every day for the second semester. In Suffolk, students are on block scheduling, where they take seven to eight subjects throughout the week each year.

Students transferring from four by four will benefit from taking Desire2Learn courses to catch them up to their new school schedule.

This year, the school system has identified two teachers, Mark Parsons and Latoya Floyd to be facilitators for the first Desire2Learn courses in government and earth science.

Floyd said so far she has been impressed with the program and its capabilities.

“It really helps the students work at their own pace,” Floyd said. “So far, it’s been working well. We’re also working to implement this in other areas of study to complement the program, which will be to the students’ benefit.”

Floyd and Parsons monitor the online work of the students as well as answer any questions or concerns from the students. For the program’s first year, the teachers will be using the Desire2Learn program with their students in-house. But Lafferty said the plan is to expand the program in the years to come.

“The nice thing about D2L is we can do it in a home environment, a school environment or a blended environment,” Lafferty said. “We have a lot of options. Down the road, this can be for homebound students or help students who are failing in one area of study.”

Lafferty added that today’s high school student is graduating to college settings that rely more and more on online courses. The Desire2Learn program will prepare them for that study experience.

“What a huge service to students to give them the opportunity to try this out,” Lafferty said. “I think being able to have every student try online learning will better prepare them for future classes. That’s a pretty nice thing.”