Wishing for More Remote Learning?

Students ellaborate on their experiences in online schools.

“You’ve got homework!” Not many students at Hockaday have ever seen that phrase flash across their computer screen. However, for the nine students taking classes with the Online School for Girls, this is a normal part of everyday curriculum.

Online courses have been trending in universities for the last decade, but the OSG plans to shape this new version of education for girls only, and it shares similar principles on female education with Hockaday.

But nine students is considerably smaller than the original number that signed up at the start of the OSG’s academic year. Initially, 18 Hockaday students enrolled for either a semester or year-long course. Unfortunately, unlike Hockaday courses, students must drop a course after the first day and so do not have the chance to demo the course.

The school offered four year-long courses and eight semester-long courses to Hockaday girls for the first time this year. Students are only allowed to enroll in courses not offered at Hockaday but will receive the same amount of credit on a separate transcript.

In the spring of 2009, teachers and administrators from around the country formed an alliance of girls schools and created the OSG, growing to involve students and teachers from over forty schools in two short years.

OSG concentrates on connection, collaboration, creativity and application in their courses, shaping class activities to benefit girls. Ann Pollina, president of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, says, “We believe that girls inhabit online spaces differently than boys and that this initiative can combine a powerful, transformative online learning environment for girls with a high-quality, twenty-first century academic experience.”

While no OSG courses were taught by Hockaday teachers this year, English department head Dr. Deborah Moreland will soon lead a summer course that in creative and analytical writing. Moreland will teach girls from around the country who are transitioning from a public to a private, independent school, a very exciting task for her.

Moreland says the program “offers the teachers and the girls the opportunity to work with girls from all over the country and all over the world.”

Cathy Murphree, assistant head of school for academic affairs and provost, worked in conjunction with administrators to bring the OSG to Hockaday.

“Girls learn best when they can collaborate with others, when they can form connections with their teachers and other girls in the class, when they can make it relevant with their lives,” Murphree says. “Those are things we found girls excel in and enjoy in their learning, and OSG has those as part of their philosophy.”

While a student is not physically in the actual classroom, most of the intimacy with the rest of the class and the instructor is still there. Class sizes are limited to 20 students for a more intimate learning environment that allows for strong connection and communication between student and teachers.

The courses take the same amount of time and consideration as any solid at Hockaday, which many students did not realize.

“I thought that the class would be easy and not take too much time, but I was really wrong,” says junior Chandler, who completed an AP Psychology course this year. “The online classes take just as much time and work that our normal classes take… It’s not impossible to manage taking the class with a busy schedule, I did it, but it makes things a lot more stressful and complicated.”

Moreland explains that in a normal OSG course “the girls will have a week to complete one assignment. It is up to them how to use their time. They can either do small amounts over the week or decide to wait until Sunday afternoon when they devote their whole entire day to the project.”

But the argument still stands that the online school experience can be important for any girl’s academic career.

“For anyone who wants to take an OSG class, I would suggest that you be really motivated to do the work and have good time management skills,” Chandler says.

Online courses are included in most colleges, and the skills taken from the OSG experience continue to benefit the student even after high school.

“I think it is important to have education experiences that are varied,” says Murphree. “Virtual classrooms will be a key part of the way we learn, and those new classroom experiences will be vital in the twenty-first century.”

—Katie