Starting next year, Stevenson will offer online option for senior students taking the AP Government course

Further weaving technology into the classroom, Stevenson will offer its first online class next year to seniors taking Advanced Placement (AP) Government. The supplementary program will be an addition to the pre-existing traditional, in-class course offered for one semester.

“The world of education has been looking for ways to successfully integrate technology in and out of the classroom,” Andrew Conneen, AP Government teacher, said. “Stevenson wanted to look into an innovative way for students to have an out of class experience while still getting credit for that class.”

All seniors are required to take a government course before graduation, and in 2013 alone, 563 out of  953 seniors took the Advanced Placement test for the government course. Therefore, on average, over 50 percent of the senior class takes the AP course. This new class, then, may affect some of the seniors’ choice.

“I think it’s an exciting day for a 21st century school to be exploring 21st century technologies to best meet the needs of our students,” Daniel Larsen, AP Government teacher said.

Therefore, taking the online version of the course would technically free up a student’s schedule by one period. This would then allow them a period to take an additional course, or have a free period.

“You’d free up space to take other classes,” Barton Huang ’15 said. “A lot of the material we learn in class can easily be taught online.”

However, some students propose that offering online classes would cause negative effects on students who do attempt to pile more into their schedule.

“It’s an incentive to pack your schedule more and I personally don’t get enough sleep as is, so I don’t think it’s healthy to even give that option to kids,” Jared Kang ’15 said.

Larsen clarified that the online class doesn’t mean students show up once a week, do work and then leave. There will be daily feedback from the teachers, collaboration and expectations. The only difference, Larsen said, is that there will not be face-to-face interaction with the teachers.

“Government is a discussion-based class,” Kang said. “So being there [in class] to talk about things would be better.”

Larsen points out that if students expect to go to college and take online classes, taking a course like AP Government online as a preparatory course before college allows students to experience an online class with Stevenson’s safety net.

“The biggest misnomer is that they think students will do nothing for six weeks and then binge the night before,” Larsen said. “It’s not like that. It’s a traditional classroom, just mobile.”

Therefore, students are involved in the classroom daily. Huang said that students should consider that signing up for classes is their own choice, and they have to know what they can handle.

“The most significant pro is that this heightens responsibility for student learning,” Conneen said. “It is responsibility on their shoulders to prioritize time and to demonstrate curiosity. It’s all part of the skills we want our students to show in college.”

Conneen said the course will mostly be based on Haiku. However, three midterms and the final exams will be done in person. Conneen also said there will be expectations for students to meet in person and collaborate with peers to engage in civic opportunities.

So, although a majority of the quizzes, tests, homeworks and daily points will be done over the web, students have a number of ways to get help with teachers if they need more than the online work they are receiving.

“There are options for digital chats and debates,” Conneen said. “Also, there’ll be time for face-to-face time if students aren’t understanding key objectives in the class.”

While the course is focused on mobilizing the course, it will hold onto some traits of traditional classroom learning to aid in the transition.

“There will always be a space for face-to-face learning and that’s a key point to social studies, and any other class,” Conneen said. “We also know from our students attending college how often they’re now taking online courses, so we want to start preparing Stevenson students for those types of classes now.”

However, for students who prefer learning in the classroom, there will be the traditional course available as well. However, Stevenson’s progression of including technology in the classroom includes considering online classes.

“I think it’s a very progressive idea because they are incorporating technology more into the education,” Huang said.

Conneen and Larsen have both explicitly stated that most AP government teachers will continue teaching the traditional version of the course, but some will also spend the day monitoring the online course as well.

“There is no secret agenda,” Larsen said. “They’re not looking to replace teachers. It’s just another piece of our program.”

AP Government may be the first class at Stevenson to move online; however, there  are possibilities to make other classes equally as versatile. However, Huang and Jones both believe that the content of AP Government would suit online learning more than other classes would.

“This isn’t a fad,” Larsen said. “This isn’t a novelty. This is the modern world. This is the world we live in. It’s not going away. Let them experience what it’s like.”