Summer school has gone digital.
For the past six years, Horry County Schools has offered supplemental online courses during the school year and summer to middle and high schoolers, all at no charge to the student. Course offerings include core classes such as Algebra and history, and electives such as journalism and computer programming. Students take the summer online courses to get ahead or make up after falling behind during the school year.
Most summer enrollments are middle school students who want to finish their high school computer science credit early, said Edi Cox, executive director of online learning for the district.
“Some students just want to get it out of the way so they have time to take other elective courses when they’re actually in high school,” Cox said.
Horry County’s online course system has grown steadily over the years, though summertime is always busiest, Cox said. Elective courses are most popular.
Students must complete an online course request form and gain guidance counselor approval to enroll in a class, and the district recommends each student enrolls in only two classes each summer. Each course is self-paced with teacher guidance and takes about eight weeks to finish, Cox said.
Self-guided work is a blessing to some students, but a pitfall for others, Cox said.
“Online classes are not for everyone,” Cox said. “Kids have to be self motivated, have to be willing to work on their own.”
Self-paced curriculum was no problem for Morgan Johnson, who will graduate from St. James High School this summer after completing two online courses.
Johnson enrolled in English 4 and music appreciation to finish her diploma requirements after she failed a class during the school year. She finished her music appreciation course in three weeks, she said.
“It’s easier for me, because I don’t have as many distractions and I can work at kind of my own pace,” Johnson said. “I can get ahead of the coursework if I want, and finish as early as I want to.”
Johnson said she didn’t need any teacher intervention during the course besides access to exams, though teachers are available for one-on-one help through text or video chats. The courses’ biggest drawback was the amount of reading necessary, she said.
Online courses are best for students who have shorter attention spans or are easily distracted by others in the classroom, Johnson said.
“You don’t have those distractions at home,” she said.
Online classes especially benefit students who transfer from another district or state and need to catch up on necessary credits, Cox said. Horry County Schools requires one computer science and one physical education requirement for graduation, which can be earned online.
“It’s designed as another option for students and it gives schools a little more flexibility with schedules, too,” she said.
Students who are heavily involved with electives or after-school activities – such as sports or theater – also benefit from online courses, according to Deborah Dean, online course instructor.
“Many times students have camps they go to, work they do, and it makes it difficult for them to get certain classes they need to graduate during the school year,” Dean said. “The online classes allow them to get what they need.”
Dean teaches integrated business application – a computer science credit that includes Microsoft programs – during the summer and information technology at Socastee High School during the school year. She said some students have trouble working summer classes into their schedules, especially those busy with work or activities.
Though every class has a pacing guide, unmotivated students can get behind, Dean said.
“It’s very easy, especially in the summertime, for days to slip by without doing any work,” Dean said. “Being self motivated is difficult and staying on a regular pace is difficult for some students.”
Still, providing online courses for middle school students can help them get ahead academically and developmentally, Dean said. Learning how to schedule school work through the week and pace themselves during the class sets them up for success later in life, she said.
Online learning isn’t beneficial to every student, Cox said, but summer work allows children to figure out their learning styles without the pressures of a classroom.
“We’ve seen more positive results than negative,” Cox said.
Contact CLAIRE BYUN at 626-0381 and follow her on Twitter @Claire _TSN.