Katy ISD trustees received an update at their March 20 board meeting on services provided by the Katy Virtual School.
Darlene Rankin, director of instructional technology, and Susan Richards, eLearning manager, spoke about current and future plans for the program, which began in 2011.
The program arose from an increased number of junior high school students who had to be transported to high schools for pre-Advanced Placement geometry courses, according to KISD officials.
Benefits of the virtual school include offering an increased level of choice and flexibility to student learning, Rankin said.
“Allowing students to choose helps increase student interest in their programs,” said KISD Virtual School Coordinator Barbara Landreneau.
Producing budget-neutral operations, preparing students for postsecondary online education and creating collaborative teams for online educators were other positives outlined in the presentation.
The program has grown from two courses in 2011 to 27 online courses this school year. A variety of classes are offered, including AP and pre-AP courses in government, psychology and calculus. The online offerings also include courses required for graduation, such as health, physical education and English.
The program uses Canvas, an online course-management system. The University of Texas, Baylor University, Rice University and several other Texas universities also use Canvas, Rankin said.
All courses provided by the virtual school align with courses in KISD curriculum. More than 60 KISD teachers are involved in the program, either writing curriculum or teaching it, Richards said.
KVS officials developed a six-week in-house online teaching certification-training program for teachers interested in participating in the online school. Instructors are trained on how to develop, facilitate, and engage with students in an online setting.
“Our teachers have given us feedback that being involved in this program has strengthened them as an educator overall,” Landreneau said. “They’ve been able to bring techniques for face-to-face teaching to their virtual classrooms and vice versa.”
An increase of 200 students is expected next year, according to KVS projections.
The virtual school allows students the freedom to take classes while working summer jobs and traveling overseas, Richards said.