Online high school another option for students in Minn.

Published 6:30 pm Saturday, May 22, 2010

A representative from Insight Schools came to Albert Lea on Thursday to talk to parents about options their high school-age children have for education.

John Jacobs was at Lakeside Cafe on Bridge Avenue to talk about the growing number of high school students completing all their work online. Insight School of Minnesota is a state-funded public high school that follows all the same standards as traditional high schools and is completely free to all students.

“It’s a Minnesota Department of Education program through Insight School of Minnesota,” Jacobs said.

Email newsletter signup

The program is all online, and students can choose full time or part time for taking courses. If they don’t want to leave their school, they can take some courses online, or if they want to leave their traditional school completely, they can complete all their credits online. The online program is not for every student, because it does take more motivation to complete all assignments and tests.

“Students need to be self-motivated to a point,” Jacobs said. “There are advisers who motivate but they have to want to graduate and learn.”

The school encourages students to go back to their traditional high school if the online courses aren’t working, and some students who try it say they just want to go back to seeing their friends in the halls every day. Students who do all their classes online have to be able to manage their time well.

“Students must complete 25 to 30 hours a week,” Jacobs said.

That’s basically equal to what they would complete in a traditional high school. The difference is that they can do any class at any time of the day. Any credits a student has so far will transfer to the online school, and if they want to go back their credits from the online school would also transfer to their school like any other high school. Students also have a mentor who helps them with any issues.

“The mentor contacts the student directly over the phone and the computer,” Jacobs said.

Students of Insight receive a free laptop and headset so they can speak with teachers over the Internet. Teachers record their classes with a webcam, and students watch on the computer and can chat live with teachers and other students. Proctors come to regional sites to administer state testing, because like any public high school in the state, students have to take standardized testing. Teachers and employees at Insight realize high school will never be fully online, because it’s not for everyone.

“Many of the kids say they just want to leave the drama of high school,” Jacobs said. “In reality this is for a small number of students, but it can help that percentage be successful.”

Some students at Insight aren’t challenged enough at their high school, and this provides them a way to take advanced classes. Other students had social issues at their high school and want to get away from that and learn. Also online there are no grade levels so there’s no stigma attached with taking longer to graduate.

One mother at the information session was Tonya Turvold. She was interested in learning more about the program for her son, who actually encouraged his mother to find an online high school.

“He does struggle in some areas but does perfectly fine,” Turvold said. “I think it’s a really neat opportunity.”

One of the major deterrents for some families is that students can’t compete in extra-curriculars or sports with their former high school because they would be open enrolled and not eligible to compete. Jacobs knows that online schooling won’t work for all kids, but it is an option.

“We never say it’s a replacement,” Jacobs said. “We just want to provide opportunities for students to be successful.”