Online class offers new learning methods

Beginning in the 2015-2016 school year, Stevenson will offer AP U.S. Government to seniors as an online course, becoming the first of its kind in Stevenson history. According to the course description, there will be no physical class meeting time­­­­­—although a minimum of 60 minutes a week of in-person or digital peer collaboration will be expected. The class will have daily activities and assignments with regular due dates. The curriculum is identical to the traditional class, but the primary mode of instruction will be online. Additionally, students will receive individualized feedback from a teacher, while in-person office hours and remediation will be available to students enrolled in the online course.

Over the past few years, the gradual integration of technology into the classroom has become significantly easier for students—for this reason, Statesman feels that the transition to an online course is not unreasonable at this point in time at Stevenson. Its practicality goes beyond the extra time that this opens in students’ schedules as it also allows for students to choose how to structure their schedule and work time. Statesman encourages this valuable time-management lesson and believes that this will provide students with a realistic preparation for college.

Given that the course is for AP credit, Statesman feels that it is fitting that this specific course is online as the purpose of an AP class is to stimulate the rigor of college and an online course is more similar to the reality of college. Furthermore, many colleges, including Northwestern University and Indiana University, require students to take at least one online course before graduating so this simulation will allow students to become comfortable with this prior to attending college.

Additionally, Statesman believes that this will provide students the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning, rather than relying on a teacher to manage their time and work. Although students are given a variety of courses to take and offered numerous non-class time through study halls and free periods, this will encourage the “discovery” aspect that is vital to every high school experience.

While Statesman feels that the opportunity to take this graduation requirement outside of school is beneficial in various regards, we are hesitant to say that it should be encouraged for all students, given the “AP craze” environment that is already present within the walls of Stevenson. Currently, there is no limit on the number of AP classes that Stevenson students may take. The opportunity to take an AP course online may encourage students with poor self-knowledge to see this as a chance to take even more AP courses during the school day. Many Stevenson students have a tendency to push themselves to limits as it is, and this may allow them another way to push themselves too far.

Statesman also recognizes the disadvantages that come alongside an online course. The emphasis placed on peer collaboration is weakened through virtual ties­­­­­­­­—although we understand that it will still be there through weekly projects. The concept that students learn better from students rather from teachers is also lost as it is more self-taught than ever.

There are also concerns that students may not recognize that although they may only attend six classes per day, they will have the workload of attending seven—so, ultimately, this class will take an equal amount of time as it would to add an extra 50 minutes to one’s schedule.

Ultimately, Statesman supports the idea that it is the choice of the learner to decide what they think is best for them and that it is a valuable opportunity to learn of responsibility and independence. However, we are concerned that not all Stevenson students are able to recognize where to draw the line—and for this reason, we caution that this is not taken in addition to six other AP courses but as a way to lighten an academic load instead.