BUILDING THE FUTURE: Virtual CTE classes offer new career paths

Jul 6, 2017

This is the third of a multiple part series examining how virtual education has transformed a small, rural school district and how that district is expanding its success throughout Missouri.

Rural Missouri school district Grandview R-2 has made major strides in using virtual education to offer diverse and challenging classes to their student body and to provide new summer educational options for the entire state through the Missouri Online Summer Institute (MOSI).

MOSI Director Dr. Michael Brown says that is just the beginning of what virtual education can offer to schools across the state, especially for more rural districts.

“It is unlimited what you can do,” he said, noting that the district is currently exploring how virtual Career Technical Education (CTE) courses could help rural districts throughout the state. “We have a CTE hospitality program and we are talking to Eminence about their kids taking some of those courses where if they start in the 9th grade, when they graduate from high school they will have earned a tech degree in hospitality. Those are things that can be done anywhere in the state and they can walk out of high school with a tech certificate.”

 

K12 offers dependable virtual CTE throughout the state

K12, a virtual education company that is partnering with Grandview R-2, is already offering CTE courses in a number of school districts in the state.

“Across the broad range of our curricula, which includes 124 CTE courses, we are serving about 65 school districts across the state,” said Sean Ryan, Sr. Vice President and General Manager of Fuel Education, a segment of the K12 program. “We cluster the CTE courses into six career clusters that include agriculture, business management and administration, health sciences, hospitality and tourism, information technology, and manufacturing.”

Ryan said what is offered in each district varies based on what that district needs and demand from parents and students. K12 empowers students to explore obtaining certificates but does not administer the actual certification test.

“Virtual and blended learning expands choice for these students,” Ryan said. “These are courses that, in most cases, the local school district would not be able to offer on their own because it is cost prohibitive to develop or the knowledge does not exist locally. These courses can prepare students much more effectively for either going directly into the workforce or being a more attractive candidate for post-secondary experiences.”

Ryan said that nationally, K12 is finding that students who participate in virtual CTE courses have dramatically increased on-time graduation rates.

“About 93 percent of these students are graduating on time, as opposed to all high school students where that number is 80 percent,” said Ryan. “It can also help businesses in these local economies that are looking to hire highly qualified employees. This can be a significant step to filling the skill gap and making these students attractive to employers in the future.

 

How do you get technical training through a virtual course?

The mix between online learning and real-world hands-on experience provided through virtual CTE courses varies based on the course and the district it is offered in, according to Ryan.

“You can go completely virtual online where you can leverage multimedia assets, assessments, pre-assessments, and post-assessments to make sure the material is being learned, but we can also offer instructors and teachers who will interact with students and we can also work with local leadership to provide practical experiences and project-based learning to accompany the online learning,” he said. “Many of our local districts will also work with local employers to provide internships and real-world experience for these students as well.”

Brown said that, because the courses are offered online and completed by students at their own pace, many students can take the virtual CTE courses on their own time and free up time in their school schedule to participate in internships.

“The impact is that they get actual job experience,” he said, noting he had seen that have a real impact on students in Grandview R-2. “Let’s say a kid wants to be a pharmacist. They have taken some courses online which allows them to go out and do a shadowing for two hours a day per semester.”

Brown said he had seen one student who had back issues follow this path.

“He changed his mind about his career because he found out how much a pharmacist had to stand on their feet,” said Brown. “He could not do that and we just saved him thousands of dollars because he would not have been able to do the career after he completed his training. Shadowing allows kids to get exposure to things they think they might want to do.”

 

Virtual CTE courses offer chances for partnerships

Whether it be providing college credit through a dual enrollment course or hands-on training through a local business, virtual CTE courses provide flexibility for school districts to tailor the course structure for their students’ needs.

“Many of these courses are providing dual enrollment credit for the students enrolled in them,” said Ryan. “Usually that is a relationship that is brokered with a local school district and a community college.”

In Wisconsin, a school district using K12 has even partnered with a local union to provide students experience operating heavy equipment like bulldozers.

“Virtual education adds scale and choice to the educational enterprise,” said Ryan. “It allows local educators to provide a wider variety of services that are more immediately relevant to students and employers.

“The demand for CTE courses is going to continue to be strong and grow as the economy becomes more vibrant and new positions are created and new skills are needed for the workforce,” he added.