Online education catching on elsewhere | NevadaAppeal.com

Online education catching on elsewhere

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Online learning may be new to some area school districts, but Steve Knight, principal of Silver State High School, has been doing it for four years.

“Times have changed, and distance education is the wave of the future,” he said. “Look at the colleges; that’s the way almost all of the colleges are doing it these days.”

Silver State, an online charter school in Carson City, is a hybrid program, he said, adding that students need more contact with teachers than most programs provide.

“Purely distance ed doesn’t work very well because the kids aren’t monitored closely enough,” he said.

At Silver State, the student comes in once a week to meet with the teachers, who he said are all certified and highly qualified to teach their subjects.

Knight said the benefit of online education is in its flexibility. The students at his school can learn anytime of the day or night.

We’ve got a lot of kids that work,” he said. “A lot of kids that have other home responsibilities. Also, research shows that teens need their sleep and bringing them any place at 7:30 a.m., well, kids are very nocturnal.”

The online programs are catching on with other districts, though it is still used mostly as a remedial program.

The Lyon County School District offers limited Internet education programs, according to Theresa White, Associate Superintendent of Education.

Several of our schools have implemented online programs for students at risk,” she said.

“It can be a combination of class and Internet. Some are doing remediation work.”

Distance education, is not used to a large degree in Carson City Schools, said Superintendent Mary Pierczynski,

“We offer primarily our classes in a classroom,” she said. “Distance ed may be something in the future as we explore the possibilities for students.”

Carson City does offer programs from PLATO Inc., a company that provides online educational services for students who need to make up classes.

“Primarily it has been done for remediation,” she said. “We have some students at the high school who have done makeup credits.”

Since distance is not a problem for Carson City, there’s no need for distance ed, she said.

“We’re very lucky here in Carson City; we have 10 schools and we’re in a small geographic area and our high school is big enough that we can offer a comprehensive program,” she said.

For students who are homebound, Pierczynski said, teachers actually go to the students’ homes, but that could change.

“We have homebound teachers who go to the homes and it’s not to say that down the road we may not be exploring distance learning,” she said. “We’re not adverse to distance ed and it has been helpful for some of our students that have been making up some classes.”

In Douglas County, Nancy Bryant, assistant superintendent said the district is only beginning to use online learning programs for alternative placement students, using Odysseyware. Thirteen Douglas County students learn online.

“Once we work through it and if it’s working well, we will expand it mostly for credit recovery,” she said. “We’re just opening up this avenue because we know it’s coming down the road so we’re doing it slowly so we can be sure it’s working well.”

Douglas’ program has one full-time and one stipended teacher, as well as a part-time counselor.

Washoe County has the most students learning online in the region, with more than 1,000 students in its Washoe Online Learning for the Future or WOLF program. School officials did not return calls seeking comment.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.