The Maryville R-II School District has announced plans to expand its Online Academy, which allows students at both Maryville High School and Northwest Technical School to take classes via computer.
R-II Assistant Superintendent Steve Klotz said the move will enhance the program's availability to students.
"The hope is that we will be able to organize it so all of our students have access to the classes they want to take," Klotz said.
Online courses appeal to students for many reasons and can be especially beneficial to those in danger of dropping out. Young people who opt for work over school can still use the Online Academy to meet state graduation requirements.
Klotz said the academy is especially beneficial in three areas.
First, it provides a remediation option. If a student fails a class, he or she can retake it online over the summer and not be behind when the next school year begins.
Second, the academy potentially allows students to take classes not offered locally by using A+ Learning Systems software, which includes courses districts can't always provide due to lack of funding, lack of student interest or lack of staff.
Third, online courses can help students who, for whatever reasons, don’t mesh well in a traditional high school environment.
This includes technical school students who may spend most of their day in a workshop or at a construction site.
Going to school online allows these students to fulfill state requirements without having to sacrifice time spent learning a vocation.
Klotz said the added flexibility can help more students stay on track for leaving high school with a diploma.
The A+ software also has a feature that allows teachers to align classroom curriculum with material covered online. This lets students take classes that closely match those offered to their school-going peers but at convenient times and locations.
Limited academy resources have been available to R-II students for the past few years, but now the School Board has approved the addition of more courses under a single academic umbrella.
Klotz said that while he believes there is no substitute for classroom teaching, it is still important for educators to reach as many students as possible using a variety of methods.
"We don't ever want it to diminish or circumvent in-class teaching," Klotz said. "There really is no comparison. But we recognize that there are many students who don't complete their education for whatever reason. This is a way to reach them."
And though it may sound as simple as clicking a mouse, taking courses online still poses challenges for students and educators alike.
"One of the biggest challenges with online classes is that you have to be self-motivated," Klotz said. "But again, this is a way for the district to keep students engaged in their educational destination."