Virtual High School brings students to ECSU

Kesha Williams
July 26, 2007

virtual-high-school-bring Washington County students will maximize their classroom instruction this fall by participating in a new Virtual High School that is based at Elizabeth City State University. During the July meeting for the Washington County School System, board members approved the use of a Virtual High School program that will target select ninth graders. Teachers at the high school will collaborate with faculty from ECSU to teach the ninth graders a series of courses that will prepare the students for college. ECSU faculty will communicate via a live video conference. Students will interact with their peers, their classroom teachers and the ECSU faculty as necessary. At least, twice a year, university officials will transport the youths to the Elizabeth City campus to attend extra curricular programs. ECSU Chancellor Willie Gilchrist said the project is the beginning of a creative brand of education for which the university must become known. "The Washington County School system is a small one with few course offerings beyond the normal classes there needed for graduation. We thought this would give us an opportunity to offer those students additional courses," Gilchrist said. "This program will also serve as an additional motivational tool for these rural students to pursue higher education. We've garnered a relationship with them (Washington County School Board) over the last year and we're glad to work with them again. We, the university, must find ways to move the educational process beyond our physical location." Dr. Sylvia Mason, coordinator of the Virtual High School and dean of the ECSU School of Education and Psychology, agreed the program is just the tool needed to prepare students for a new era of learning. "The students will not be left alone to type in their answers as students did years ago while taking old correspondence courses. They will actively participate in this new classroom setting which is called video conferencing. In this case, they will see their ECSU instructors on a screen instead of seeing them standing at the traditional chalk board. Young people are gathering knowledge in different ways these days so we are confident they will successfully learn through the Virtual High School." "Best of all, there is no cost to the students for participating in this program that will prepare them for college. Teachers from ECSU and Washington County will make the program part of their work load. They will work together to make sure the students are progressing well and taking full advantage of the program," Mason said. The Virtual High School offers great benefits for its' successful students that were not available in the past. Students will earn college credits while in high school and save much of the cost associated with attending the first two years of college. Students can enter college as juniors instead of entering as a traditional freshmen. These students will likely need less financial aid than the traditional student who attends college four years. In addition, these students will likely enter the job market sooner than their peers. Mr. Julius Walker is superintendent of the Washington County School system. He was delighted his fellow board members approved the new Virtual High School for their students. He and fellow board members said the program is a very good idea that will help students advance and save their families money. Walker said he thinks the program will give their students a more positive outlook on the future. "We don't have a lot of employment options in Washington County so they (students) will definitely need a college education to survive. I really like this program because we are an hour away from Elizabeth City State and the program would introduce them to college life." "This program is learning for long term instead of learning for the short term because they can earn college credits while in high school. It calls for a higher order of thinking skills, higher order of academic and social skills. It will force them to collect and categorize data and improve their research skills. When other kids see them succeeding in this program, they will want to be a part of it too. Educators say the program is uniquely designed to remove the financial and social barriers that discourage some rural youths from attending a university. Since these youths will interact with college professors while comfortably seated in their local classrooms, they should arrive confident as full time college students. The university's 116-year track record of successfully graduating the state's rural youths is reason to believe, ECSU is well prepared for the next generation of students-virtual or otherwise.