TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) This school year hundreds of students across Tennessee are going back to class from right behind their computer screen.
The Tennessee Connections Academy, a new online school, offers children as young as kindergarten age through high school new options for learning.
The school says there are many advantages to learning online when compared to learning in a traditional classroom setting.
They believe the biggest benefits are the fact that children are able to work at their own pace on their coursework, giving students the option to work ahead if interested.
They also are able to engage more in the portal than they might in a classroom, and parents are able to play a more active role in their child’s education.
TCA is different than homeschooling. With this online school, students are still engaged with a teacher throughout a six hour school day. Parents are not purchasing curriculum and teaching it to their children, though they may play a role in helping younger children complete assignments throughout the day.
The online school is also following the exact standards and testing regimen of your average public school.
Nikki Starnes, a Tri-Cities based instructor, says in most ways this is exactly like going to public school, students are just doing it online, from home.
“It’s just a virtual classroom, so I’m still going to the board, it’s just virtually. I can still let kids come to my board, just virtually. We would all be in what we call live lesson classrooms, and I would teach just like I did in a traditional class,” says Starnes.
Starnes taught at Daniel Boone High School for eleven years and decided to make the switch to online schooling when she saw the benefits that online learning provided to her students in the classroom.
A criticism of this type of learning claims that students are being removed from community atmospheres that will help them with their social development.
Starnes says Tennessee Connections Academy will combat this through their online portal and connecting students in person for localized field trips.
“They’ll be able to interact, virtually, with their peers in those classes. They’ll get to talk to each other, ask each other questions, you can even put them in groups within that virtual environment so you can get them to talk and get to know each other,” says Starnes.
Right now more than 600 students are enrolled state-wide in the Tennessee Connections Academy. They believe that number could grow to over a thousand as enrollment processes continue.
Online schooling is something they believe will continue to grow across the state of Tennessee, as they say it is already rapidly growing in popularity across the nation.