AUBURN, Mass. - Students at Auburn Middle School will soon have the opportunity to communicate with students from China, India or Alaska.
Starting Sept. 5, up to five middle school students will be taking online courses with students in other parts of the world. Auburn High School has had this program for five years.
Thanks to a partnership with the VHS Collaborative, also known as the Virtual High School, the middle school will have access to a variety of online courses.
“This program is not looking to replace teachers and schools. It’s a supplement to the school’s classes and gives students an opportunity to take classes that wouldn’t normally be offered,” said Carol Arnold, president and CEO of Arnold Communications.
A huge range of online courses are offered, including the teenage brain, engineering, civics, business, creative writing and “World War II through the eyes of Dr. Seuss.”
The program’s students should be motivated, independent and be at a “higher level where the classes aren’t challenging them,” according to the VHS Collaborative.
“The students get assignments at the beginning of the week, and they need to finish them by the end of the week, so independent learning and time-management skills are needed,” said Eric Bouvier, director of technology at Auburn Public Schools. “No teacher is in front of the students. The teacher could be in another city or state, so the students have to be responsible themselves to get the work done.”
Arnold agreed. “These independent skills are needed in college, so the program serves as a great way to prepare students for college and beyond,” she said.
Even though the students aren't surrounded by peers, they interact with fellow students in online discussion forums.
Auburn High School joined the VHS Collaborative in 2007. The high school has 25 student seats per semester, and the school has a VHS teacher, Melissa Diguette, who teaches forensic science to students around the world.
The middle school will have five seats in the fall and five seats in the spring. There won’t be a VHS teacher at the middle school because it’s a pilot program. But “if the program does well, they can add more seats and get a VHS teacher to teach students from around the world,” Arnold said.
“The program has been successful at the high school, and we’re hoping the same thing happens at the middle school,” Bouvier said.