ABC 15 Special Report: Taught by computers

Students in one Pee Dee school district are learning from computers.

When the bell rings, students usually go to class and sit in front of a teacher and for students like Janai Ford, that means logging on to a computer.

Ford is a junior at Lake View High School.

She was one of the 14 students to be assigned to the school’s first virtual classroom last semester.

"At first I was kind of nervous about it because I never did it before, but after a while I liked it," Ford said.

This virtual classroom grew out of necessity, when the school’s anatomy teacher had to switch to biology to accommodate a growing school.

The teacher shortage made it hard to find a replacement.

"We weren't able to find a teacher and because of our funding and stuff, we can't just hire a teacher for a few kids," Lake View Guidance Counselor Kimberley Garris said.

Garris says the district turned to Edmentum.

"It's rigorous coursework. It's an accredited program where students can take high school credits that we don't offer here on campus and they can do it virtually," Garris said.

Students spend 90 minutes in class learning from a certified online curriculum with a teacher's aid in the room.

"They go through at their own pace and they're able to complete those assignments, so if they get done faster than the other students, they can complete those assignments," Garris said.

Some are worried if between cell phones, tablets and computers at home, the online class adds up to too much screen time.

"That's where they wanna be, that's what engages them, is screen time, many many times. I think, like anything else, as long as you monitor it and it's not becoming problematic, I think it can be okay," Dean of the School of Education at Francis Marion University Tracy Meetzeholcombe said.

Meetzeholcombe said online classes might be preparing students for college.

"If a student is more engaged online that might be a case where they are really being prepared for life after high school," she said.

Meetzeholcombe says the key to success is making sure self motivated students are the ones enrolled in online classes. "You really have to have some kids that understand how they learn and understand how to study and how to engage in learning without someone standing over their shoulders."

Miranda Hyatt says that’s where she comes in, making sure the kids stay on track.

"If there's a problem with the student, teachers contact me and I kind of find the issue," Hyatt said.

In 2016, 19 students attended the traditional anatomy classroom, six got an “A”

In 2017, 14 students attended the virtual anatomy classroom, only one got an “A”

Even though fewer students got A’s, Garris says they consider it a success with the number of students getting B’s and C’s about the same.

"Last semester that we had everyone passed. It's pretty comparable when we look back," Garris said

The district says they’re also saving money. They budget $50,000 a year for a traditional teacher. The district’s contract with Edmentum costs about $48,000 dollars a year.

As for Ford, she loved learning at her own pace.

"I feel like I learned the same amount and I feel like I did better than I would with taking a regular course," she said.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off