Teams from Penn Manor, Hempfield and Manheim Township are planning a unique online learning partnership that blurs the boundaries of traditional school buildings and district attendance areas. Beginning this fall, students will have the opportunity to enroll in district-sponsored online courses taught by teachers from each partner high school. Dubbed “Open Campus,” the long-term goal of the partnership is to provide quality education choices for students seeking schedule flexibility, specific elective courses or even accelerated graduation options.
Virtual education is common in Pennsylvania. In addition to cyber charter school programs, many districts contract with external entities for fully online or blended courses. What makes our online initiative unique is the tri-district cooperative nature of course development and an open enrollment policy where students from each district may participate in any other partner district’s online courses. Courses will be taught by well-qualified teachers to mixed sections of students from all three high schools. In practice, the high school concept transitions into a modern homebase for learning, rather than a monolithic building where instruction exclusively occurs on-site.
Twelve online courses along with approximately four hybrid courses are scheduled for the 2012-2013 school year. In preparation for the launch, partner districts are collaborating on course and content development. Each partner district is also taking the design lead on specific courses. Penn Manor is the lead developer on three courses: Precalculus, Calculus and Astronomy. Work has already begun on the three courses. Prior to the holiday break, teacher-developers participated in the first of a series of training sessions designed to kick start their online course creation efforts.
Reliance on open source software and open curriculum resources will be central to our program. To maximize our ability to collaborate across districts as well as reduce costs, open software tools and instructional resources will be standard for course development and delivery. To illustrate, all three participating districts will build courses in the open-source Moodle learning management system. Open resources such as Khan Academy and other Creative Commons material will also figure prominently in design and development. Finally, our course design philosophy emphasizes non-proprietary Internet databases and software formats whenever possible.
We are thrilled to be working with our partners at Hempfield and Manheim Township, and we look forward to the opportunities this project will afford our students. This collaborative protect will develop an education model where open access, flexibility and student choice become front and center. Fundamentally, the Open Campus project modernizes an antiquated high school model and furthers our mission of educating students for the 21st Century. Read more news coverage about our groundbreaking project at Lancaster Online (note: partial paywall) and stay tuned for more information as student course enrollment details are posted.