New Law Requires More Classes Be Offered Online

Five chapter quizzes, a midterm, six more quizzes, two essays and a final exam. This was the breakdown for junior Sarena Yeung’s U.S. Government class. However, there were no set test days or reminders for these exams. This is because Yeung chose to take U.S. Government online instead of in a traditional classroom setting.

“I didn’t have enough room in my schedule for government because there were other things I wanted to do,” Yeung said. “Four years is a lot, but when you only have seven classes per year,  you don’t actually have much time to do things you really want to do.”

A new law will go into effect on July 1 that will allow more students like Yeung to take advantage of online courses.

The law, Senate Bill 603, requires public school districts in Missouri to provide the option of free online courses to students.

Dr. Shelley Willot, Executive Director of Learning and Support Services for the Rockwood School District (RSD), said when the law was passed, they were already looking for ways to give students in RSD different learning options.

“While many looked at the new law as a burden, we looked at it as a new opportunity to move our plans to develop online coursework in RSD a little more quickly,” Dr. Willott said.

In order to offer online classes, a vendor of online classes had to be chosen for the district. Dr. Willott said they selected Springfield Launch, which created online courses based on the Missouri Learning Standards that are taught by Missouri teachers.

Springfield Launch offers a variety of classes online including lab-based classes, where labs are either conducted online or with at-home lab kits, and PE classes, where activity is tracked through provided fitness tracking devices.

In the past families paid fees for online classes, the cost of which varied depending on the course.

To be in compliance with the law online courses must be offered to RSD students for free. Dr. Willott said they had to work the expenses of offering online classes into the current budget. It costs the district approximately $255 per semester to offer these courses.

Dr. Willott said there are a variety of reasons that a student may choose to enroll in an online class, including for credit recovery, the ability to work at one’s own pace or, like Yeung, to open up their schedule.

Yeung, who heard of the option to take online classes through her counselor, said she enjoyed taking U.S. Government online.

“I liked being able to coordinate my own schedule and having it go at my speed,” Yeung said.

Yeung said that online classes have a teacher, but you don’t communicate with them often. To be successful in the online U.S. Government course, Yeung said she treated it like any other class, reading the textbook and watching videos like Crash Course in preparation for quizzes.

“Online classes are a good alternative option if you don’t have room in your schedule for a class you are required to take, but it could be a challenge if you’re trying to balance it with multiple other things in your life outside of school,” Yeung said. “I would say use it as a reserve, keep it in the back of your mind that, if I need to get this done, it’s there.”

Paula Ake, counselor, acts as the MHS liaison for the new policy for online classes.

“Students have a lot of different learning styles, and I can see how [online learning] could benefit students who like to work independently or who suffer from some anxieties within a full classroom,” Ake said.

Ake said there are many students currently taking online classes, and she anticipates that number growing as more students realize it is an option, particularly when it comes to credit recovery.

“RSD as a district is working very hard to make sure its online options are best suited for RSD students,” Ake said.

A complete list of courses offered online is available on the RSD website.

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