Virtual learning program expands educational opportunities and increases student engagement


Virtual learning program expands educational opportunities and increases student engagement

Putnam County School System, Cookeville, Tennessee

Putnam County School System, a rural school district located in central Tennessee, strives to ensure that all students achieve their full potential. To help fulfill this mission, Putnam County created the Virtual Instruction to Accentuate Learning (VITAL) program in 2008. VITAL provides comprehensive personal learning services to students throughout the district, including those in elementary school.

Catherine Jones, principal of Prescott South Elementary School, turned to VITAL when she was looking for a foreign language program that would challenge her high-achieving 3rd- and 4th-grade students. “Younger students pick up foreign languages more quickly,” noted Jones. “And I would like for it to become second nature for students to have another language.”

Working with Sam Brooks, the personal learning coordinator for VITAL, Jones explored virtual learning options and learned about the Elementary Spanish I and II courses offered by Connections Learning®, a set of online courses and services now part of the Pearson Connexus suite of offerings. The online courses were economical and included one-on-one time with a live teacher who would speak with students via their computers to help them improve their pronunciation. Jones decided to pilot the program during the 2013–2014 academic year.

Sixteen students signed up for the pilot program, which was held every day for 30 minutes in the school’s computer lab. Thirteen students actively participated in the program throughout the year, and ten of those students completed the Spanish I course by the end of the school year. Both student and parent feedback was positive.

The Spanish virtual learning class allows 3rd- and 4th-grade students to really work on their computer keyboarding skills and to push their minds in ways that they would have never done in a regular classroom.

Sam Brooks, Personal Learning Coordinator, Putnam County School System

Given the success of the pilot, Jones continued the program at Prescott during the 2014–2015 academic year, but offered it as an afterschool activity due to scheduling conflicts. Another school, Capshaw Elementary School, also decided to offer the program.

At Capshaw, eighteen high-achieving 4th-grade students actively participated in the program, which is offered for 30 to 45 minutes each day. As of early May, three students completed the course, and the majority of the other students are on track to complete it by the end of the school year. Those who do not finish the course have the option of completing it at home over the summer.

I like everything about Spanish. It’s online and you can go on your own pace, which makes it amazing.

Sarah, 4th grader

Both Prescott and Capshaw plan to continue offering the Spanish virtual learning program. In addition, after seeing how the program engaged students and expanded their horizons, two more elementary schools in Putnam County plan to offer it next year.

For more details about the Putnam County School System implementation, read the full success story.

Read the full success story

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