Stanford plays role in online high school

October 12, 2009 7:11:49 AM PDT
Stanford University is playing a key role in what may be the wave of the future when it comes to educating gifted high school students, as well as those who live overseas, but want an American education; it's called online high school.

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Tatyana Ray, 17, can take an English class, write a history report and turn in her math homework and never leave her Palo Alto bedroom. That's because Tatyana attends the best high school you've never heard of.

"I guess I wanted something that was more individualized and like focused on me as a student," said Tatyana.

A Stanford campus building is home to a online high school educational program for gifted youth.

"The common misconception people have when they think of an online school is of students sitting in their rooms, working by themselves, reading a lot of Web sites and sending a lot of emails and nothing could be further from the truth," said online high school director Ray Ravaglia.

Students attend seminars online, live if they can make it, taped if they can't. The instructors are often Stanford PhDs. Classmates can be next door or thousands of miles away in Europe or Asia. The work is much more challenging than the average brick and mortar high school class.

"When you're dealing with classes that are taught by PhDs, they're not going to be like a breeze. You're not going to be taking notes out of a textbook or copying problems over and over. So I think a certain degree of resilience is necessary," said Tatyana.

Things kids in classrooms take for granted can be done virtually through a special computer program. Click on a tab to raise your hand, ask a question, even laugh at a teacher's joke or applaud at some announcement.

"It's really advanced. You can do a lot of stuff you can do in a regular classroom and it's not really as chaotic as you would think," said Tatyana.

Tatyana is one of 80 students going full time in search of a diploma. The cost is $13,000 a year. You have to be self motivated because there's no teacher hovering nearby to make sure you're working. But in other ways, the environments are remarkably similar.

"There is a student government, there's a newspaper, there's a year, there's a math team, there's a literary journal, there's a culinary society," said Ravaglia.

Online high graduates are not automatically accepted into Stanford. But, since the education is especially rigorous, graduates have a good shot at many of the nations' stop schools.

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