Monday, March 12, 2001

Virtual class expands high-school course list

By Jaclyn Giovis
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MARIEMONT — Mary Halsall teaches science to 20 high school students, but she has never seen their faces.

        Mrs. Halsall, a Mariemont High School biology teacher, is one of a growing number of high school instructors in the Tristate opting to design and teach an Internet course for the Virtual High School project.

[photo] Mary Halsall teaches a science class over the Internet.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        Virtual High School (VHS) is an Internet collaborative, allowing high schools to swap teaching time for so-called “NetCourses.”

        Each day, Mrs. Halsall spends sixth period in front of the computer screen. At the same time, Mariemont students enrolled in a VHS course log into their class from a library computer.

        Mrs. Halsall's NetCourse, “Epidemics, Ecology or Evolution,” was created so that Mariemont could expand its list of course electives to its 500 students.

        “Virtual High School allows us to offer over 200 additional electives ... courses that our faculty and staff would never be able to offer,” said Jim Renner, Mariemont High School assistant principal and VHS site coordinator.

        For each teacher who teaches a virtual course, 20 students from the participating high school can enroll in a virtual class. Each VHS course costs the school about $6,000 per year. Students receive full credit and a letter grade for the course.

        Mariemont senior Joe Singler, 18, is enrolled in “Aquaculture Science” through the VHS project.

        “I like the freedom of VHS,” Mr. Singler said. “There's no one standing over your shoulder telling you what to do.”

        Since it came online in 1997, VHS has grown from about 300 students nationwide enrolled in 30 courses, to more than 1,700 students and 156 courses. More than 200 U.S. schools participate, including La Salle, Withrow and Hamilton high schools locally, according to the VHS Web site.

        Mrs. Halsall's class has 19 students from New York to Georgia, and one from Trinidad.

        “My students are all virtual to me,” Mrs. Halsall said. “I just know who they are by what they type.”

        For more information about VHS, go to



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