VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Beginning next year, all high school students in Virginia will have to take some sort of online course in order to graduate.
The General Assembly passed the law this year, fueled by the belief that today's students need the experience of taking coursework online to do well in college and the workforce.
The requirement starts with incoming ninth-graders next fall and applies to every student pursuing a standard or advanced-studies diploma. Students will be required to take at least part of a course online, and even noncredit-bearing courses will count.
A similar requirement was proposed in Virginia Beach before but failed because of concerns it would penalize students who didn't have computers at home, The Virginian-Pilot reports ( http://bit.ly/QNIltt). Lawmakers chose to allow students to satisfy the requirement by completing a digital course while in the classroom.
"Digital learning, this movement is being infused in schools across the country," said Javaid Siddiqi, deputy secretary of education for the state. "We want to make sure all students are exposed to this mode of instruction."
In Virginia Beach, officials weren't sure how much work they'll have to do to prepare for the classes. The division already has Virtual Virginia Beach, which has about 891 students enrolled in 10 courses this summer. Last year, about 150 students were enrolled in five courses.
Students log into a website and complete coursework at their own pace, but with guidance from a teacher.
Colleen Cooper, who taught English 12 online earlier this summer, said students learn through reading and watching videos of PowerPoint lectures. They communicate with her and with one another through instant messaging and discussion boards, and they can reach her by phone or meet her in person.
Brent Mckenzie, one of the Virginia Beach board members who opposed the idea for a requirement last year, worries about the cost to the local schools and whether the requirement will be problematic for students who aren't good at independent time management.
"This is the trend and this is the direction we're going in, and we'll have to make the best of it," Mckenzie said. "We'll have to work out the kinks and maybe offer some tutoring to students. But, again, that's time and money and resources that's getting used up."
Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)