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Feb. 16, 2012 Volume 33, No. 20

College of Education to offer K-12 courses online


Eight high school courses to launch in June

Mizzou Online has resulted in thousands of students taking college-level electronic courses from home. MU is ranked among the top Association of American  Universities in virtual education, offering about 550 online courses.

Now the university is looking to educate online kindergarteners through high school students via the College of Education’s Mizzou K-12 Online program.

“Our goal is to raise student learning throughout the state,” Dean Daniel Clay said.

Plans are to launch six online high school level courses in June: Government in the United States, Healthy Living, English, Personal Finance, mathematics and science.

All courses are developed by state-certified teachers and use advanced online technology to make it easy and fun for students to learn.

The learning experiences include documentary-style videos, virtual interaction with the instructor and other students, interactive games, completion of interesting projects, and the taking of quizzes and exams.

Program needed in state

The need is great for virtual K-12 education in Missouri, said Monica M. Beglau, director of Mizzou K-12 Online.

Districts may lack certified teachers for certain courses, she said, and some students are homebound due to medical or other reasons. Also, a number of districts can’t offer as many advanced courses for gifted students as they would like. Missouri’s State Board of Education recently adopted a new definition of “high school graduation” that requires students to complete core courses within four years to receive a high school diploma.

But sometimes students have scheduling conflicts with the core courses. The Mizzou K-12 Online program will allow these students to complete core course requirements online to resolve these issues.

While some Missouri schools use online courses offered by national K-12 commercial providers, the programs often do not offer all of the state-required classes, Beglau said.

Missouri, for example, requires students to take a government class that teaches the fundamentals not only of the United States government, but also the Missouri government and state constitution.

Mizzou K-12 Online fills this requirement with its Government in the United States course.

“School districts are looking for options to help students meet graduation requirements so they can graduate on time,” Beglau said.

Videos used in virtual classes

Mizzou K-12 Online courses run 16 weeks with 14 lessons. Each class section is limited to 25 students.

Polished documentary-style video snippets, provided by Discovery Education, are used to present information in an engaging and entertaining manner.

“It’s not just a talking head,” said Mark Gagnon, instructional designer and curriculum coordinator for Mizzou K-12 Online.

Students can click on “Ask Your Instructor” to pose questions, and “Water Cooler” to chat with the other students enrolled. More advanced students can work faster through assignments, while slower-paced students can get the extra help they might need. Assignment due dates help keep students on pace so that courses are completed within the 16-week timeframe.

“All assignments are due by 11:59 p.m. on the same day each week to help students develop consistent work habits,” Gagnon said.

Teaching by doing, not by rote

On a recent morning, Gagnon demonstrated a lesson, “Social Class in America,” from the government course.

The course site described an assignment to write a few paragraphs on class and culture, followed by a clip of a Discovery Education documentary showing experts commenting on social stratification.

Other assignments and instruction — all written out and with audio if needed — followed.

Mizzou K-12 Online is not teaching by rote. “Courses encourage activity and individual thinking to help the student analyze and understand,” Gagnon said.

Beglau predicts the courses will satisfy a huge educational need. She hopes to enroll 200 high school level students for summer.

“We want to give students as many options as possible to help them learn and complete course work so they are college- or career-ready,” she said. “This could really help Missouri schools serve their students.”