Wolford school offering 80 electives online
It reads like a course list at a mid-size university: criminology, digital video production, gothic literature, wildlife management.
But in fact, those classes, and dozens more, will being offered to the students at Wolford High School starting in the 2013-14 school year.
It’s part of a program offered through the Center for Distance Education in Fargo, which allows schools as small as Wolford, with its 11 students in grades 9-12, to offer up to 80 different electives.
The introduction of the program began in May 2011, when the school started investigating the options for giving its students opportunities to take the variety of classes offered at bigger high schools.
In July, 2011, Wolford Superintendent Larry Zvada and two school board members traveled to Fargo to meet with representatives from the center.
In the fall of that year, staff members from the center visited Wolford and talked to students, teachers and board members about the programs offered.
As a trial run, Zvada, Wolford staff and school board members tried some of the classes.
“Our criteria for evaluation was the quality and rigor of curriculum,” Zvada said. “Was it user friendly, and then the quality and speed of feedback from the Center for Distance Ed.”
The group agreed the program was positive, and in spring of last year. Wolford started using the online option for all of its business education classes.
Zvada said the proof has been in the pudding as Wolford students just completed a successful trip to the state Future Business Leaders of America convention.
Barb Meidinger, the principal of the Center for Distance Education, said the program was started in 1935 to help help rural students earn high school diplomas when many schools stopped at eighth grade.
“Wolford came to us almost two years ago to say how can we work together to give our students an opportunity to go beyond (the standard curriculum),” she said. “A student at Wolford has as many offerings as a student in Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck now.”
A number of schools throughout the state are using the center.
“We have probably at least 130-140 schools in North Dakota that are using us this year,” Meidinger said. “By the end of the school year, it may be as high as 160. It may run from one student at a school to full classes of students.”
For the 2013-14 school year, Wolford will be offering around 80 total electives, with more than 70 available online.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Zvada said. “Where there have been struggles, it’s been with students that have also struggled in traditional classes and there are a variety of reasons those struggles occur.”
Zvada said the students aren’t working by themselves and are alway supervised, but have the option of working ahead or working at a slower pace, if necessary.
The classes are much more than the first online course the center offered in 1996.
“They are very interactive,” Meidinger said. “It allows the students to work by themselves or 1-on-1 with the teacher. They can work any time, anywhere.”
In the end, both Zvada and Meidinger said the options are about opportunity for rural students.
“Our primary focus is the rural students in North Dakota,” Meidinger said. “That’s what we were founded for and that’s what we focus on.”
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