This came through my Facebook stream…
December 15, 2012
September 3, 2012
This news article came across my electronic desk late last about one of my favourite Canadian programmes…
This school has 68 courses, 4,600 students and zero classrooms
Stephen Baker used to do pushups while waiting for files to upload to the Internet as he built one of the first online schools in the country.
He started offering high school courses on the Web in 1995 — an era that predated the online learning management systems of today.
A science teacher by training, Mr. Baker taught himself the HTML coding language and worked with a local Internet service provider to create a rudimentary platform for his first class — biology.
“In the early days, everything was new; there was no path to follow,” he said of his time as a Web education pioneer.
Almost two decades later, as technology expands to facilitate easy access to Internet resources just about anywhere in the world, online education has become ubiquitous, debates over whether learning through a computer screen can replace an in-person experience notwithstanding.
Mr. Baker’s own Virtual High School now has a curriculum of 68 courses that qualify for Ontario secondary school diploma credits and will instruct an estimated 4,600 students in 2012, up from just nine a decade earlier. (Numbers increased quickly after the school received Ministry of Education accreditation in 2003.)
The business is based in a newly renovated old hotel in the small town of Bayfield, Ont., on the shores of Lake Huron, but as with many online initiatives, physical location is not particularly relevant.
Some students never step foot in a high school, Mr. Baker said, choosing instead to take each required course through the Virtual High School platform, which lets them work at their own speed and complete assignments and exams whenever they want.
Most, however, take one or two courses or use the online school to supplement a schedule disrupted by sports or other extracurricular involvement.
Mr. Baker, who left teaching in 2005 to run the business full-time, has a staff of close to 20 who deal with administration as well as developing the curriculum, plus about 70 teachers who work on a contract basis.
He now runs his courses on Desire2Learn Inc.’s learning management system, which was created by his son John’s Kitchener, Ont.-based company.
Similar privately run offerings have sprung up across the country and some school boards also provide online options for free. Mr. Baker said families choose to pay for his courses, which cost in the neighbourhood of $500 each, because they allow more flexibility and encourage students to be independent and self-motivated.
Meanwhile, the popularity of Internet learning at the post-secondary level has steadily grown over the past decade with a number of free options attracting recent attention.
Online enrolment in U.S. university classes grew by 10% from 2009 to 2010, according to Babson Survey Research Group, far outstripping the less than 1% growth in overall course enrolment during the same period.
Canada lacks similar statistics on online learning, said Maxim Jean-Louis, president and chief executive of Contact North, a distance education and training body funded by the Ontario government. However, he estimated the growth rates would be similar here.
Starting next month, the University of Toronto will be the first Canadian school to offer free courses on the Web through Coursera, a Mountain View, Calif., technology startup founded last fall by two Stanford University computer science professors.
The company offers what are known as massive open online courses from high-profile institutions such as Princeton, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Edinburgh.
When it announced the agreement with U of T and 11 other schools in July, Coursera said it had already had more than 680,000 students from more than 190 countries sign up for courses, with a total of 1.6 million enrolments.
So far, U of T plans to offer five classes through Coursera, with two computer science courses Mr. Baker might have found useful in the 1990s (on learning to code and learning to program) set to start in September.
Coursera is backed by US$22-million in venture capital but it — along with similar ventures like Udacity (started by another Stanford professor, Sebastian Thrun, also of Google Inc.’s driverless car research fame) and Harvard/Massachusetts Institute of Technology collaborations edX and MITx — doesn’t yet have a clear business model.
The free online courses generally don’t lead to university credits, but some money could be made by selling certificates to students on completion. Other possible monetization ideas relate to university branding and recruiting and employment placement services.
“There is a general movement to online accessibility and affordability,” said Mr. Jean-Louis, who noted that the rapid expansion of free post-secondary learning — in the United States in particular — is due in part to the high cost of tuition.
Other factors, he said, are the increasing prevalence of technology that allows for scaling up and offering access to thousands and even millions of people, as well as the simple desire for “lifelong learning.”
View article online at http://business.financialpost.com/2012/08/29/enter-the-virtual-high-school/
June 12, 2012
Not sure how this came across my radar screen.
Bayfield, Ontario, Canada, (5 June 2012)SYNOPSIS: Virtual High School has been featured in a CTV News broadcast.
“While rural high schools fight to attract enough students to stay open an online high school based in Bayfield is booming. CTV London’s Scott Miller has more from virtualhighschool.com where teachers and students never meet in person. CTV”
Always enjoy promoting one of my favourite Canadian K-12 online learning programs – run by a bunch of good Newfoundlanders!
May 31, 2012
I received this earlier today and had intended to post it right away, but the day just got away from me…
Virtual High School GRAND OPENING
In the fall of 1995, the first Canadian online course, designed in Notepad, became viewable to anyone using the Netscape browser. This grade 11 biology course was developed by Steve Baker while working as a staff member at Goderich District Collegiate Institute (GDCI), Huron County Board of Education (HCBE), now the Avon-Maitland District School Board in Ontario. Following the success of the online biology course, Baker worked with John Smallwood in 1996 to develop a Grade 13 Canadian Literature course (ELIOA) which won second prize for best online course in North America at NAWEB 97.
On January 2, 1997, the VirtualHighSchool.com domain was purchased by Baker and used to house the online courses. Baker worked with his local Internet Service Provider,www.odyssey.com, operating at the time in a backroom of a jewelry store in Clinton, Ontario where, along with the HCBE, he built a very rudimentary learning management system which remained unnamed. One of its primary tools was a quizzing engine, developed by Coral Technologies of London. This arrangement required that the student login and write randomized multiple choice tests. This system also included a second tool, a password protected site for the content, developed by the folks at Odyssey.
In 1999, a change in direction at the HCBE stipulated that Virtual High School was about to close and that the school board would be taking full ownership of its two courses. Baker, who had personally paid for the VirtualHighSchool.com domain and never claimed the expense (a common practice among teachers), retained the domain. Baker continued to try to resurrect Virtual High School privately, but not having the ability to grant credits, the school had little chance of success. Despite this, he continued to write, develop, offer and teach the online courses.
Baker was also involved in a peripheral way in helping his children, led by John, to develop another company, Desire2Learn in 1999. In these early days, Desire2Learn used the VHS online courses as a base from which their learning management system was patterned. Despite all of the Bakers’ efforts, VHS had only one student in 2001 and nine students in 2002. Baker applied to the Ministry of Education in Ontario to be granted status as an inspected private school that would have the ability to grant Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) credits. Following a number of inspections by the Ministry, VHS became a fully accredited, inspected private school in Ontario in April, 2003. It could then begin offering its six online courses for OSSD credits.
Virtual High School has remained an accredited private school offering Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) credits entirely online ever since. Today it has 64 distinct high school courses, an administrative staff of 14 persons, around 60 OCT teachers and over 4600 active students. Against all odds, VHS has become one of the largest online schools in Canada. Students have tremendous flexibility in that they can begin their courses on any day and work on them at their own pace. There are no set deadlines for assignments or tests. The student controls how quickly they move through the course and when they hand in their assignments or take their tests. There is no start or end date to the school day or year. VHS courses are also unique because no textbooks are required. All the content is written and developed by VHS curriculum developers to match the curriculum requirements of the Ministry – and is presented in online lessons to students using Desire2Learn’s Learning Management System. VHS consistently receives positive feedback from students, parents, universities, and colleges on the quality of its courses and its OCT teachers.
Grand Opening EVENT:
Over the past year VHS has been renovating an old hotel, the Martha Ritz, on Main Street in Bayfield. VHS and its staff have now moved into their new office building, making the school a much more visible presence in the community. This Friday, June 1, 2012, VHS is hosting its Grand Opening at its new facility.
Location: 27 Main Street North, Bayfield, ON N0M1G0
Time: 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm (Ribbon Cutting at 6:00 pm)
The event will begin with brief speeches from local and political dignitaries followed by the cutting of a ribbon. The event will then move indoors where there will be refreshments and hors d’oeuvres, as well as a live jazz trio. Everyone will have the opportunity to tour the building, meet the staff, and meet the people who worked on the building project.
February 20, 2012
Since I was recently accused in a ideological report of either not knowing about or ignoring the online private school sector in Canada, it seems kind of funny that late last week my good friend Steve Baker sent along this information for me to post.
VHS is still in Bayfield, Ontario but the admin staff moved into their new Virtual High School Administrative Building on 2 February 2012. The new building located on the Main Street in Bayfield has been under construction for most of 2011. All of the school’s phone numbers will remain the same. The mailing address will eventually change but for now it will remain as 18 Harbour Court.
I think I can speak for all the admin and academic staff in saying that they absolutely love their new office. In the second window, above the VirtualHighSchool.com sign, if you look really closely, you may be able to discern my photosynthetic plant – which really appreciates the light. In our previous location, the light was more conducive to fungi than angiosperms.
Mr. Baker, Principal