By Norah Kelley, ’24
In this unexpected year, sometimes it feels like everything has changed, even the one thing I thought would never change – school. Instead of going back in person for the 2020-2021 school year, my classes were completely online. It was a big adjustment at first, but Virtual Academy has turned out to be a great experience for me. There have been ups and downs, but it all worked out in the end.
About 60 students were part of Virtual Academy at the high school this year. Some, like me, started from day one, while others went remote or returned to in-person learning at different points in the year. The fully remote program used two online platforms: VHS Learning and Edgenuity. With VHS Learning, you have a teacher and classmates somewhere in the world who you work with in discussions and projects, but everything is asynchronous. You get a schedule of assignments each week and can work anytime you want as long as you meet your deadlines. Edgenuity classes are more individual and self-paced. Lessons are delivered through videos and reinforced through assignments and assessments, some graded by the system and some graded by Virtual Academy teachers. The system estimates the time needed to complete assignments, but if you fall behind one week, you can make it up the next.
Taking some classes on each platform worked really well for me. At the beginning of the year, making sure that all the assignments got done was a little difficult. But as the year went on, I got into my swing and figured out the perfect schedule for me. Each day, I made sure to do all of my classes for at least 50 minutes, with scheduled breaks throughout the day. Balancing screen time with the work I needed to get done was a struggle. I did not prefer one platform over the other, since they were both very different. With Edgenuity, I liked that I could work at my own pace, but I liked that VHS had a teacher and deadlines that kept me on track.
One challenge for Virtual Academy students was taking AP tests. Since VHS Learning classes started a week later than usual, lining up with our mid-September return to school, the classes ran into AP testing weeks. Luckily for AP students, many assignments were exempted, so there was more time to study. AP students taking Edgenuity classes could take advantage of the flexibility that system provided; if they needed time to study, they took some time “off” from their course and made it up later.
While VHS Learning had a more rigid schedule than Edgenuity, its classes ended much earlier. Our last day for VHS classes was May 19th, giving those students a head start on a well-deserved long summer break. Edgenuity classes will run right through June 17.
Next year, I’m excited to go back into school, and see everyone again. I have enjoyed my time in Virtual Academy, but going back to school in person will be exciting! I will miss not having as much flexibility in my schedule, and it will be a challenge going into high school for the first time as a sophomore. For me, Virtual Academy was a great decision giving me a great freshman year, but I am hopeful for an even better sophomore year!