Tutored by Tech

By: Sarah Stortz

Taking classes online would sound like a dream come true for many students. You wouldn’t have any teachers yelling at you, you’d hang around your computer all day and you’d learn at your very own pace.

Surprisingly enough, a program like that does exist in Cedar Falls High School, but only under certain conditions. This is Apex: an online curriculum course designed to specifically help students looking for credit recovery or support in their current classes. The program was introduced to Cedar Falls four years ago and was originally used to help students enrolled in the alternative program but has now expanded to the regular high school building to help students who failed their previous classes or remained absent too long.

Even though each course is a little different, they all require some kind of reading, activities and assessments that need to be completed. The student typically must get over an 80 percent in order to move on to the next unit.  After that, a grade is later determined at the end of the course and is placed on the student’s transcript.

Director of Secondary Education Dan Conrad said the program has worked for students so far. “For many students, it is a good option. We are looking at a new online curriculum that we believe might be more engaging and rigorous for students,” Conrad said. “We are currently piloting several courses in the new program and will be collecting data. If we believe it will be a better curriculum, we would make the transition for next year.”

Conrad said that Apex can offer a great number of benefits for students who struggle in a traditional classroom. “The ability to work on a course at your own pace is the biggest benefit.  We can also start a student on a new course at any point in time during the school year as well, since the courses are not dictated by the calendar.”

Conrad said the program is also an efficient way to assist each individual student. “Since the curriculum is online, we can enroll one student into a course that does not have to have a teacher assigned to teach the course. I also think completing an online course is a good experience for students, as this mode of learning is expanding across the country and is being used more and more for adults as they continue with their education beyond high school or college.”

Junior Andrew Shockley is one student who spends a class period on Apex every day to make up for his lack of success in biology last year. Shockley was recommended to take Apex by his counselor.

“It just works better for other students, me especially,” Shockley said. “I don’t learn as well in classrooms. I just like to do it on my own, so I’d say that Apex is a pretty good thing for me.”

Despite all of the advantages Apex gives, it can bring in drawbacks for some students as well. “Providing students with support is probably the biggest concern,” Conrad said. “If a student is struggling in a science online course, there may not be a science teacher readily available to assist. We also continue to monitor the rigor of the course and may supplement additional coursework.”

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