Online learning to expand in Districts 203, 204

Local school districts testing the waters of online and blending learning plan to dive into more courses in the upcoming year.

In a presentation to the Naperville District 203 School Board on Monday, District 203 Chief Academic Officer Jennifer Hester Schalk and several people involved in the consortium outlined how the online school year is progressing.

Last year District 203 joined with Indian Prairie District 204 and Wheaton Warrenville District 200 to form the Expanded Learning Opportunities (eLo) consortium. Starting this year, the three districts offered nine courses to students from member districts.

Currently 205 students are enrolled among course offerings that are taught by 11 teachers.

Among the eLo teachers is Naperville North’s John Noffke, who said he strives to make his online American government course just as rigorous as his face-to-face class.

Noffke said he generally gives his online students seven days to complete weekly assignments, which take roughly five hours to complete. Students use the Canvas system to communicate with their teacher and fellow students. Noffke said assignments foster communication between students, whether it be creating a poster or eliciting other students’ opinions.

He said assessments are timed to prevent students merely looking up the answers online. He added he gives the same test in his face-to-face classes and the results are similar to what he is seeing online.

Noffke said the best part is that he’s bringing many of the eLo resources back to Naperville North for use in face-to-face classrooms.

John David Son, director of instructional technology in District 203, said when gathering information on current classes and determining potential classes, administrators, counselors, department chairs, teachers and students were asked for input. The consortium also considered external sources such as the types of online courses students are taking through other online outlets.

With just a few months under the belt and registration for the new year approaching, the consortium is busy preparing for the 2015-16 school year.

At this time, eLo recommends continuing the American government (one semester), consumer education (one semester), geometry (one year), health (one semester), U.S. History (one year) and web design (one semester) courses. Consumer education and health are the most popular classes.

In the fall, 53 students are taking consumer education, with another 78 enrolled for the spring semester. For health, 79 are taking the class this fall, and 44 are signed up for the spring class.

The most popular classes for Naperville North and Central students are U.S. history, consumer education and health. In Indian Prairie District 204, the most popular classes are consumer education and health.

The consortium is recommending retiring the following less popular courses: English 9/10, English 11/12 and Mandarin Chinese. Only 10 students from Indian Prairie schools signed up for the English 11/12, and three students, all from the Wheaton Warrenville District, enrolled in Mandarin Chinese for two semesters.

Although eliminating just three courses, next year the consortium plans to add the following courses:
  • African-American literature
  • Algebra II
  • AP human geography
  • Business law
  • Introduction to music theory
  • Modular physical education
  • Psychology
  • Sustainable energy
  • Video game design.
African-American literature, business law, modular P.E., music theory, psychology, sustainable energy and video game design would all be one semester courses. The others would run the full year.

The consortium also is considering offering its most popular courses – American government, consumer education, geometry and health – as a part of summer school so students wouldn’t have to be tied to a classroom in order to pick up an extra class in the summer.

Online classes are open to high school students at Naperville North, Naperville Central, Metea Valley, Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley.

Suzanne Baker, The Beacon-News, 11/5/14