Take Classes without Leaving Your Couch

by Nina Mariotti

Since 2006, high schools have been offering online classes. This yea is Branford High School’s first year participating in the Virtual High School program. 40 students from Branford were piloted to take classes in VHS.

So far, the program has been running smoothly. In fact, the board of education is so pleased with the success of the program that they’re hoping to one day have it be a requirement for BHS students. “It’s a long term goal-maybe 3-5 years from now-to have every student [at BHS] have the requirement to take a class online,” says Mr. Panagoulias.

Some students may be wondering why exactly we should be taking online classes. What’s wrong with the classes we take every day at school? Mr. Bouley, the only teacher at BHS to teach an online class so far, says while of course our day-to-day school classes are always a good way to learn, online classes will enrich your learning in a different kind of way

“It’s a very different experience, teaching in a [physical] classroom with students and one online,” he said. “It’s hard to say which one is better…online students are very independent learners… and can get individual help from me. My classes here have the benefit of hearing stories from myself and working with other students.” In addition to teaching AP psychology classes here at BHS, Bouely teaches an online philosophy class.

Mr. Panagoulias is hoping to get more teachers like Mr. Bouely to teach an online class, because for every one teacher our school contributes, we get about 50 seats for students to join the program.

The world around us is always changing, and the use of technology is growing all the time. “It’s important”, as Mr. Panagoulias says, “for our students to work with technology skills.  It will be very good to have those skills when they go to college and in the work space.”

VHS also offers a much wider course range than our school typically could. Teachers from all over the world teach the courses, and they make sure that language and time zones never stand as a barrier. You could be in a class with students from Alaska, China, Texas, and someone from the town over. This type of interaction will open student’s eyes to new worlds.

Mr. Panagoulias and the rest of the school board are very excited at the prospect of having VHS be a part of every student’s high school experience. However, “there’s a lot we still have to learn,” says Panagoulias. “We want to be able to give full support for the students. We still have to figure out what kind of support that is.”

As for now, things seem to be working out well; some students have finished with their semester classes and liked it so much they are moving on to a new class for the second half of the year. If you’re interested in taking online courses next year, talk to your guidance councilor today!


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