Franklin Regional to offer expanded online classes through Learning Academy
By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Learning doesn't have to be confined to the four walls of a school – at least not at Franklin Regional.
Beginning this fall, high school students will be able to pick from an expanded selection of online classes offered both by Franklin Regional teachers and those in surrounding districts as part of the Franklin Regional Online Learning Academy.
The district has offered online courses for several years. The difference now is that students can take up to an entire day's worth of approved online classes for credit, said assistant superintendent Mary Catherine Reljac.
“We're reimagining what education could be for our students,” Reljac said. “It's about breaking out of the typical four walls of the classroom into what education could be.”
Before this year, FR students have taken online classes in three different ways, high school principal Ron Suvak said.
Some students take courses in a hybrid form – some days, the class meets face-to-face, while most days, students work asynchronously online. Others take online-only classes developed by FR teachers, including English, government and economics, business classes and math classes such as algebra and geometry. Others take online classes through a dual enrollment program at local universities.
However, this school year, students were allowed to take up to three credits from an outside institution if the course was not offered at Franklin Regional. That includes classes through the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit's eAcademy.
Tim Hammill, supervisor of educational technology and curriculum for the intermediate unit, said the program offers Westmoreland County schools an opportunity to build their own cyber schools without starting from scratch.
“Our schools don't have to create all of the resources themselves,” Hammill said. “They're given a leg up on getting a cyber solution in place.”
Penn-Trafford is the only district in Westmoreland County to not participate in the eAcadmey, Hammill said. Some districts, like Ligonier Valley, use only their own staff but use the program to house the classes.
The plan behind expanding the Franklin Regional Online Learning Academy could bring back some of the 54 students who have left the district for cyber charter schools.
For Franklin Regional, the biggest challenge, high school principal Ron Suvak said, will be helping teachers adapt to the change.
“Change is difficult,” Suvak said. “There are people are pioneers on the front end, both students and teachers. We have people who have come a long way, leaps and bounds, towards moving courses to a more virtual environment. But there are some who aren't there yet.”
Superintendent Jamie Piraino said he hopes to one day have all courses be taught online by Franklin Regional teachers. While the program begins at the high school, it will move to the middle school and, possibly, the elementary level.
“We have much more flexibility than we ever did in the past in terms of giving kids opportunities and maintaining the integrity of a Franklin Regional diploma,” Piraino said. “I mean, if two-thirds of the courses are taken outside of the program, it's not really a Franklin Regional diploma.”
Online classes can be taught after hours – and according to the agreement, teachers will receive additional compensation. Teachers will earn $225 per student enrolled in a full-year course and $140 for a semester course.
Classes each week must have an average of 200 minutes of class-based activities and one graded assignment.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Investigation continues to search for motive for knife attack at Franklin Regional
- Newtown counselors discuss how to cope with tragedy
- Murrysville doctor oversaw Forbes Regional trauma response