Virginia Beach City Public Schools
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach City Public Schools teams up with Cox Communications® to develop fiber-based video link to cross-connect area high schools.
The classroom walls are coming down and new educational opportunities for students are flooding into Virginia Beach high schools. It's the result of a new contract signed between Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) and Cox Communications, the local broadband communications provider. VBCPS has selected Cox Communications to provide distance learning capabilities to all ten of its area high schools.
Students at Princess Anne, Bayside and Ocean Lakes high schools began taking classes via a distance learning vehicle provided by Cox Communications as an experimental pilot program during the 1998 - 1999 school year. The students used high-tech videoconferencing capabilities to take a course in discrete math that was offered only at one of the school division's ten high schools - Princess Anne.
"Based on the effectiveness of the pilot program and the positive response from students, teachers and parents, the School Board unanimously voted to expand the distance learning program to all of our high schools on a permanent basis," said Superintendent Timothy R. Jenney. "We found that distance learning provides equal opportunities for all our students, regardless of their location. It is a powerful educational tool that will help us prepare our students for living and working in the knowledge-based society of the 21st century."
To date, 206 VBCPS high school students have participated in distance learning courses. In addition to the discrete math class, courses in theater appreciation, honors public speaking, total quality management, advanced placement (AP) statistics and AP physics are currently offered. Three additional schools - Salem, Kempsville and Green Run - began participating in the distance learning programs on January 31.
As a result of the new contract between VBCPS and Cox, more courses are being planned for the near future. Possibilities include Japanese, Russian, anatomy and sports medicine, real estate marketing and AP Spanish literature. Videoconferencing technology is currently being installed in the four remaining VBCPS high schools and is scheduled for completion by the start of the 2000 - 2001 school year. Landstown High School and the Advanced Technology Center, both currently under construction, will also be wired for distance learning.
In the future, the 15 area middle schools and 55 elementary schools could potentially be wired for the technology as well, according to terms of the contract. Ultimately, the number of students involved in distance learning could reach as high as 2,000 per semester.
Why Distance Learning?
Superintendent Jenney noted that the technology powered distance learning has created a transformation in the classroom. As a result, education experts and statistics agree, distance learning has become an increasingly necessary component in a rapidly evolving, information-based era. By bringing this state-of-the-art technology to the high schools, VBCPS is fulfilling a goal of its strategic plan: to provide the high-tech equipment and know-how to keep pace in this rapidly changing and growing field.
"This is a growing movement in education," Jenney stated. "Our pilot program proved that distance learning provides numerous benefits to our students, educators and communities. We're pleased to bring state-of-the-art technology into all of our high schools so that all of our students can benefit from it and stay ahead of the curve."
Both the VBCPS pilot and nationwide studies demonstrate that distance learning provides a variety of benefits to students. For example, area students who participated in the pilot program reported that the technology required them to remain more alert in the digital classroom than in traditional teaching environments. In fact, discrete math students in the remote classrooms outscored their counterparts in the live classroom in end-of-year tests.
"Since the technology allows the teacher to watch and even listen to the students at any time, they know they need to stay focused," explains Eva Roupas, VBCPS distance learning teacher specialist. "Besides, everyone wants to look their best on television!"
Roupas added, "Distance learning levels the academic playing field between schools, provides a collegiate setting for college-bound students and provides an opportunity for excellent teachers to share their capabilities with a wider student audience."