The Elmira Alternative
High School is situated in a rambling, old elementary school nestled in the
Southern Tier of upstate New York. We educate students that, for a
variety of reasons, have not adapted to the traditional school setting. Our
class sizes are small, and our staff is very dedicated to these students.
Decision to Use Online Courses for Students
Last fall, we were
introduced to the idea of online learning. We all had some trouble
wrapping our minds around the idea that someone could teach our students from a
distance in a virtual classroom. We wondered if such a thing could work
with our students. As alternative educators, we were prepared to think out of
the box and consider this option, but we approached the concept with caution,
as we were skeptical that someone from another state could possibly prepare our
students for the rigorous New York State Regents Exams.
It took several months
to get the technical “kinks” worked out so that we could even attempt to try
online learning. Finally, last spring, we introduced online classes in our
alternative school and in our night school programs. We soon made some
Different Results for Different Learners
Some students forged
ahead and completed courses in record time, while others didn’t move forward at
all. These non-movers became frustrated and quickly stopped trying the online
approach. Initially, we thought that it was because of some difference in the
students’ learning style, personality, etc.
Instructional Tutorials Spell Increased
But we’ve observed
this fall that the key to helping students experience success with online
learning is to be certain that they get through the instructional tutorial.
This is taking some skill in coaching our students through it, but we’ve
noticed that once they are through the instructional phase, they are much more
prepared to move ahead with the classes.
Online Courses Offer Broader Options for
The more we use the
online option, the more we realize how helpful it is. We are able to offer
students in our relatively limited academic setting many more course options.
Other buildings in our district are starting to use these courses, and it seems
to be spreading like wildfire. We are still learning how to help students adapt
to this new medium, but with each success, we think this option might just
change the future of education.
About the School: The Elmira Alternative High School is
located in the old "Washington Elementary School" at 222 W.
Washington Ave, Elmira, New York. The school is staffed to accommodate 45
students. There are 5 teachers, one secretary, a principal, a teaching
assistant, one custodian and a part-time lunch lady.
About the Author: Connie Young has been a High School
Guidance Counselor since 1990. Most of my career has been spent working
with At Risk Students in Alternative settings. Ms. Young spends three days a
week at the Elmira Alternative High School.
Schools seeking live, synchronous instruction to supplement online tutoring should consider online tutoring providers, like TutaPoint.com, which provides live, US based online tutors.