In a 21st century classroom, the essential tools for learning often include computers, as well as books. Some students are even taking entire classes on the Internet. While an online course may seem impersonal, there is a virtual school called Online School for Girls that plans to create a close-knit community in the virtual world to give girls confidence so they can excel academically.
Marlborough School student Xochitl Green wants to pursue a career in the field of psychology. Her high school only offers one psychology course, and that’s not enough for her.
“Because I wanted to take a more in-depth class they [school faculty] told me there was an option to do an online course, and so I looked into it,” said Green.
In addition to her classes in school, Green took an online advanced placement psychology course through Online School For Girls. She saId the experience was different from a regular classroom.
“I actually thought it was a lot easier to say your thoughts because there weren’t any eyes looking at you like there are in a classroom. You got to be completely 100 percent yourself. There were a lot of projects, though, where we had to video chat with girls or you had to text girls,” she said.
Marlborough School’s Stuart Posin said partnering with Online School for Girls gives students opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have.
“There’s a lot of APs [advanced placement], a lot of STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] courses that we just don’t have the interest or the mass of students to be able to produce those classes, and so by partnering with other schools around the nation and getting the best teachers around the nation, we’re giving girls the opportunity they just otherwise wouldn’t have,” said Posin.
Brad Rathgeber, Executive Director for the Online School for Girls, said, “What we’re trying to do in these single gender settings is really build an enormous amount of confidence in the girls so they can find great success [when] they go onto college and beyond.,”
A single sex education is not what makes a student successful, though, according to Diane Halpern of the Minerva Schools at Keck Graduate Institute.
She spoke to VOA in a Skype interview.
“Often people will point to exemplary single sex schools and say ‘look here’s an example that it works,’ but they tend to be highly selective in terms of the students they admit. Parents are wealthier, especially in the U.S., where people have paid they tend to be very academically focused,” said Halpern.
But there is growing interest in an all girls’ online school. Since it began five years ago, the Online School for Girls has seen an increase in attendance, and the number of high schools partnering with Online School for Girls has grown from four to 85.
Rathgeber said his online girls’ school provides students with a strong sense of community that helps them learn.
“If you’re creating a small cose knit commuunity and you’re trying to really bond students with their teachers and students with each other, gender can matter at some level. And we think we can create a learning environment that capitalizes on a single gender experience,” he said.
Rathgeber is now working on building an online school for boys.