The counseling department decided to change the online program that provides students a way to make up failed classes.
Beginning this semester counselors have replaced Cyber High, utilized by the school for the past two years, with Odysseyware, another district-approved online resource for students in need of credit recovery. The counseling department switched to Odysseyware in January because Cyber High was too costly, according to assistant principal of student support services Michael Yi. In the Cyber High program, students must pass four out of five unit exams to earn credit for each $90 course, according to counselor Jeffrey Yang. If students fail any exam, they can pay an additional $20 if they wish to retake the test.
Typically, students, not the school, pay for the courses, but some are unable to afford the cost, according to Yi. In such cases, the school foots the bill. Last semester, expenses for Cyber High amounted to approximately $6,000-$7,000, a bill that has not yet been cleared, although the school plans to settle the account, according to Yi. There is no funding designated to pay for the Cyber High courses so money is pooled from miscellaneous funds. “Odysseyware avoids such complications, since it does not involve any costs for now,” Yi said.
A student can recover credit for any core academic classes that he or she failed, though science courses are not offered because they require “wet labs” — labs that require the use of water to wash and clean the materials. “I think online courses in general are convenient for students who really need the credit since they can do it during their free time,” Yi said. “However, students don’t get to talk to a teacher face to face and can lose the chance to discuss with their classmates as well.”
Furthermore, the completion rate for Cyber High is disappointing ⎯ only half of the first semester initial enrollment of 30-40 students finished the course, according to counselor Jeffery Yang. “I hope Odysseyware is more effective than Cyber High,” Yang said. “The students may not feel motivated to complete the course or they may be too busy. Both online courses require dedication; students need to utilize their free time wisely.”
Odysseyware requires more monitoring, ensuring that students stay on task. Another incentive the school plans to use to encourage students to complete the course is to charge a $30 deposit, according to Yi. Upon completion of the course, the school will return the money back to the students. Students must follow a designated curriculum and counselors can check a student’s progress after every test and quiz. All tests, projects, essays and quizzes are either reviewed by or graded by an instructor or counselor, according to Odysseyware’s web site (www.odysseyware.com).
When Cyber High was first implemented, fewer students were enrolled and thus the cost was lower. However, over two years of implementation, the number of students using Cyber High increased, according to Yi. “More students are enrolled while the passing rate is going down, wasting our money,” Yi said. “We need to find a more effective way to monitor the students so Odysseyware is the better choice.”
The University of California approves 18 different online institutes based on their A-G requirement that district schools can choose from. The counseling department has been looking at various options since the end of last semester and is now testing Odysseyware. As of the week of Feb. 13, students are being enrolled into the program, according to Yang.
These online make-up classes are only offered to seniors and occasionally juniors. Counselors look over students’ report cards and note who received a “D” or below in one or more classes and thus needs credit recovery. They email these students and set up an appointment to discuss the online course option, according to Yi. “The students who need credit recovery normally know who they are,” Yang said. “Sometimes they come to us, while other times we would go to them.”
A version of this article first appeared in the Feb. 24, 2012 print edition of The Lowell.