MILLEDGEVILLE — Baldwin High School senior Taylor Martin has enjoyed taking online courses for the last two years to further her knowledge in content areas not offered in the regular high school curriculum. With Georgia Virtual School (GaVS), students are provided that option of online learning.
“I have taken Latin I, Latin II, forensic science, mythology, journalism and world history. I signed up because I really wanted to take Latin and Baldwin High School didn’t offer it. I ended up loving the system, so I wanted to do more,” said Martin, who plans to attend the University of Alabama to major in English. “In a real classroom, you have be there and do the work, and online you do the work because you want to do it. I love it because you work and learn at your own pace. It’s definitely helped prepare me for the college mentality.”
GaVS is a program of the Georgia Department of Education’s Office of Technology Services. Operating in partnership with schools and parents, students are offered middle and high school level courses across the state. GaVS provides a teacher-led virtual classroom environment and equips students with an online media center and guidance center to support students throughout their online course experience.
“Baldwin High School has offered GaVS for at least eight years. We offer classes that we don’t offer in our building and it gives students those courses through Georgia Virtual School,” said Joellen Waller, high school GaVS facilitator. “GaVS helps transfer students from other schools because they have the opportunity to finish up a course at another school; students can learn a new language apart from their regular school schedule, and they can take advanced AP classes that we don’t offer. GaVS really gives students a chance to learn something they wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise.”
GaVS offers courses during the regular school year as well as providing a tuition-based summer school program. Courses range from electives, world languages, fine arts and health to language arts, math, science, social studies and test preparation.
“This semester we had 20 students and for the fall semester we had 24 students,” said Waller Thursday as students registered for courses for the next school year. “We have registered 36 students for the upcoming fall and spring semester, which is the largest number we’ve ever had.”
Junior Leah Gordon said she enjoys taking GaVS courses during her own time without the distractions usually associated in a traditional classroom setting.
“I just can’t sit in a class with so many distractions. With this, I pace myself and if I don’t understand something, then I can access it online anytime of the day with no other distractions,” she said. “I have taken Latin I and Latin II, and I’m planning on taking another language in the spring semester next year, either Italian or French. I would recommend taking online classes to my peers, but only if they’re able to take on the responsibility because you have to make sure you get the work done on time.”
Registered students in the GaVS program will begin courses the first week of August after completing an online orientation. Classes will conclude one week prior to the regular school semester.
“There’s a lot more diversity in what students are studying. This gives them the opportunity to branch out and follow things they are interested in more in-depth than what they can do in a regular high school curriculum since we’re limited in what we can offer,” Waller said. “Students have to be very independent and self-motivated. It’s a wonderful prep tool for college because they have to learn how to pace themselves and look at material early enough so they can turn in assignments on time to earn a full credit for the grade.”
Within the past two years, senior James Vogt has completed three semesters of Japanese and one semester of Chinese. He recently took the National Japanese Exam and scored high enough to earn a bronze certificate.
“I didn’t want to take Spanish and I have always been interested in Asian cultures,” said Vogt, who is looking forward to attending Georgia College and Georgia Tech to pursue a degree in physics and take part in a dual enrollment program with Japan. “This is a good idea for students if you have that drive, you want to learn and you have an interest in the class you’re taking. I definitely recommend it to other students very highly, whether it’s a language course or not.”
For more information about GaVS, visit www.gavirtualschool.org.
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