Students at Laguna Blanca School started this school year with new classes and new teachers not only from their own campus but also from across the world. In a partnership with the VHS Collaborative — a nonprofit that works to provide schools with global, collaborative learning opportunities — Laguna Blanca now gives its students access to more than 400 courses taught by teachers around the globe.
Already working to provide students will small class sizes and access to numerous advanced level courses, Laguna Blanca has also decided to embrace the growing popularity of online learning programs. “We are … committed to staying ‘in the now’ when it comes to curriculum development, and this is an opportunity for students to become familiar with online learning,” explained VHS site coordinator Blake Dorfman. “It also is valuable for college preparation, as the online format requires students to be self-starters and work independently on their own schedules.”
Based out of Maynard, Massachusetts, the VHS Collaborative uses “co-synchronous e-learning” in order to foster “collaboration, cooperation, communication, and community” among not only its students but its teachers as well, according to the nonprofit’s website. The courses offered range from such diverse subjects as AP English to DNA Technology, with each member school electing one of its teachers to teach a new online course each semester: “The program also provides a professional development opportunity for educators at the school in that a teacher at each school is now teaching other VHS kids online,” said Carol Arnold, president and CEO of Arnold Communications.
In exchange for each teacher and course that a school provides to the online community, 25 of its students are given the opportunity to participate in one of the courses themselves, explained Arnold. So far, students and teachers at Laguna Blanca have been responding well to the new program, as students are excited to now be able to take courses that they otherwise would not have due to scheduling conflicts or a lack of availability. In addition, the VHS Collaborative also ensures that all of its courses are suitable for students with learning disabilities and are up to par with national standards in order to provide equal opportunities to all students.
Once enrolled in a class, the “cohort of students progresses together, using collaborative web tools to gather and share resources, debate ideas, comment on contributions, and collaborate on projects,” according to the VHS website. This then helps students to develop global citizenship skills as they interact with and hear the opinions of students from other countries and social backgrounds, noted Arnold. “Laguna Blanca is committed to providing students with as many academic opportunities as possible,” said Dorfman. “We felt that the online alternative was something worth trying.”