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Online schools: What do they offer?

9:03 PM, Aug 26, 2013   |    comments
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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., (WZZM)- As students head back to school, there are new options for children including online learning.

You might have seen the advertisements on television or social media. WZZM 13 News wanted to know what those schools had to offer.

One of them, Connections Academy, is the largest online K-12 in the world. The company oversees The Nexus Academy, located in Grand Rapids.

Principal Doug Greer calls it blended learning. "And by that, I mean, it's where students come to campus, meet with teachers on a daily basis, and they can participate in a virtual world."

The students spend four hours on campus and another three hours online at home. There are 11 adults, including teachers that help the students.

"I think part of the thought is that we just throw students online and not monitor what's going on. It's the exact opposite; we look at performance and attendance on a daily basis."

16-year old Sequoya Heidenfeld had trouble in a traditional public school. She wasn't focusing or participating in class. "So, it was very easy for me to slip through the cracks and hide in a corner, no one would really notice." Sequoya's mom, Krishna says, "She had a tough time acclimating to a big classroom, large student body, that sort of thing."

Sequoya agreed to try Nexus a year ago. The school offers several core and elective courses, but no music or art. Students are required to work with a personal trainer. "I like fitness class a lot, which is funny, because I'm a very lazy person," says Sequoya, as she laughs.

Greer says, "We have students on traveling soccer teams, kids on hockey teams, so definitely kids who have outside passions. But, Greer admits it's not for everyone.

Mike Flanagan, Superintendent of the Michigan Department of Education, believes online classes deserve a small role in education, but should be administered by a local school district. "In my ideal world, every school district would have blended learning for their kids. And by that, I mean traditional, some online courses, but they would run that, they would do that."

In this case, Nexus Academy is a charter school. It's still publicly funded, but its curriculum is tailored to fit each student and the schedule is flexible. It might not be the best option for some, but in Sequoya's case, it works. She's happy and her grades have improved.

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