With virtual platform, Alaska high school reverses decline

Petersburg High School in Alaska has 140 students and is struggling with dwindling enrollment, staff and electives. A collaborative online platform might help reverse the trend.

Petersburg High School, which sits on an island in Alaska's Southeast panhandle surrounded by a national forest, has 140 students and is struggling with dwindling enrollment, staff, and electives.

When Virtual High School Global Consortium, a non-profit organization specializing in collaborative online education and professional development, offered 25 students spots at a reduced price in exchange for one Advanced Placement teacher, Petersburg saw it a as an opportunity to be able to offer their students more diverse classes.

Now Petersburg offer engineering, architecture, art history, and veterinary science, among other classes. Sue Hardin, the school's English and Spanish teacher, says that she facilitates advanced placement classes for student in some Northeastern schools, as well as that Oklahoma, Washington State, Switzerland, Venezuela and even China.

Virtual High School work with nearly 700 school in 43 countries, and is one of a number of intermediaries that allow schools to garner qualified instructors from anywhere in the world. Before a teacher can be added to the roster, it requires the teachers to pass a proprietary 16-week graduate level training program.

However, there are a few drawbacks with the program. Teachers who lead the online classes say the amount of time required can be very draining and technological glitches can interrupt conversations.

Despite the technological difficulties that can arise, countries like China is increasingly getting more interested in using Virtual High School, because their students are interested in obtaining and American education. Educators say the opportunities to build alliances worldwide allow them to strengthen their skills, promote a mutual understanding between countries, and a experience a whole new level of support.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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