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Virtual Campus program continues to grow

CONYERS -- More Rockdale County students are learning via the computer on their own time.

Officials with Rockdale County Public Schools recently reported that its Rockdale Virtual Campus program continues to grow in popularity among its students.

"We understand that for a variety of reasons that brick and mortar (buildings) don't always work," said RCPS Superintendent Richard Autry.

He said the system needs new ways of thinking and bringing students back into the system.

"There's extensive competition with virtual classes," he said.

Gene Baker, assistant superintendent for School Improvement, recently reported that nearly 900 students are enrolled in the program. That number almost matches last year's total enrollment of 900 students and doesn't include the totals for the spring semester.

Over the summer, 600 students took courses, compared to nearly 500 the summer before that. This fall, nearly 300 students are taking classes, compared to about 125 students last fall. Last spring, about 275 students took classes.

Baker said that over the summer students enroll in the program primarily to get ahead in their classes. He said students looking to make up work instead enroll in the credit recovery program.

Rockdale Virtual Campus is teacher developed, and students typically work independently with teachers providing feedback.

The program features live online tutoring and the ability for parents and students to ask teachers questions. Additionally, session recordings are saved into a podcast library that students can download for help.

"That is a feature we'll continue to expand," Baker said.

Rockdale Virtual Campus plans to pilot a digital literacy course for middle-schoolers next semester. It would focus on 21st century skills with standards including creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, critical thinking and problem solving, digital citizenship, and technology operations and concepts.

In the future, students can personalize a virtual approach. They can attend full time to take all of their classes online, use a blended approach to take a majority of their classes online or attend part time to take selected classes online. The non-full-time model would allow students access to take specialty courses and programs like the Rockdale Career Academy.

Baker said that the program requires the same expectations, requirements and testing of students and follows the same curriculum that all other RCPS students use.

"This does not change the quality," he said.

The system eventually wants to make the program tuition-based for non-RCPS students.

"We receive calls daily from people outside of the system," Baker said.

The program is free to RCPS students.

The system also eventually plans to market the software for the program, which is unique to RCPS.

More information about Rockdale Virtual Campus is available via the RCPS website, www.rockdale.k12.ga.us.