The Onalaska School Board is looking at allowing students to complete part of their classes online.

During a board meeting Monday night the school board approved a policy that would allow some students to complete course work on the web.

The program will be piloted by High School social studies teacher Andrew Beckstrom’s students. High School Principal Jared Schaffner said it’s important to make a clear distinction between independent work and online instruction.

“It can’t simply be here’s independent work to go work on because that looks like what students of all ages just do all the time and it certainly isn’t virtual learning,” he said.

Schaffner said Beckstrom has worked around this by creating interactive video lessons that require students to engage with the concepts being taught. This might be through a written or recorded prompt, or a quiz.

The educator can then see how the student responded to the prompts, when they did the work and confirm the work is being completed by that student.

“You can see that the student is logged into his or her Google account, so, it’s not a case where someone else is doing it for them,” Schaffner said.

Curriculum Director Roger Fruit said these online courses won’t cover topics that aren’t already taught in a traditional classroom, instead, they offer educators an additional tool. He said there are other Wisconsin schools doing this without a policy, however, he didn’t recommend moving forward with these programs without it.

“The kind of thing that Jared (Schaffner) is describing — what Andy Beckstrom is going to do second semester with econ — is technically not possible unless the board adopts a policy that allows for there to be a kind of alternative activity or modification to a class,” He said.

Fruit said while the policy on the table doesn’t cover every potential application of virtual classrooms, it does provide the district coverage for what it plans to do in the immediate future.

Schaffner said possible implementation of this policy would be to split large classes into two smaller groups with alternating schedules.

He suggested that one group could work remotely while another receives more individualized attention in the classroom. The Onalaska School Board unanimously approved the online course initiatives policy at Monday’s meeting.

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Coulee Courier reporter

Tobias Mann is a reporter with the River Valley Media Group. He can be reached at tobias.mann@lee.net or at 608-791-8216.

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