Online Learning

Virtual School Expands Career Pathway and AP Courses Statewide with Help from Vegas PBS

In a touch of déjà vu a public broadcasting system in Las Vegas is helping an online school to deliver courses that lead to certifications. Vegas PBS, formerly known as KLVX, was the original source in 1991 when Clark County School District first began offering distance education to its adult learners. The format then was videotape on TV. Now Vegas PBS will be helping Nevada Learning Academy (NVLA), the county's virtual school, deliver content to high schoolers in healthcare, IT and business. The goal: to allow students to graduate with the credential and skills to help them land a job that can finance their continued education. Vegas PBS and NVLA share a campus in Las Vegas.

Simultaneously, NVLA has also begun working with the state department of education to subsidize broader access to advanced placement classes for students outside of its home county.

Vegas PBS has received a grant that will enable students from across the state to enroll in online career pathway courses through NVLA for $75 per class per semester, a considerable discount from what is typically charged for out-of-district enrollment.

As Principal Andrea Connolly explained to THE Journal, the new agreement is financial. Grant money will enable Vegas PBS to subsidize tuition for any student pursuing a career pathway. For many years Vegas PBS has run Global Online Advanced Learning (GOAL), a program dedicated to workforce training and economic development through online courses, programs and seminars. "But their focus has always been adults, and they don't have the capability to put a course on a student's high school transcript," she said. "The student could have taken the career pathways through the GOAL program. But it would have just been for the certification. It wouldn't have counted for any type of high school credit." Now, students will attain both.

NVLA teachers will handle the instruction. Connolly said her school already had access to teachers who could handle the health science and business tracks. Recently, she hired a new IT instructor who works in the IT department at a local community college to handle teaching in the IT pathway.

Curriculum will come from several sources: NVLA itself; Fuel Education, which produces digital courseware in multiple topics, including career technical education; and companies, such as Cisco, which produces courseware for academic programs.

Students who complete their career paths will end up with an industry certification, said Connolly. For example, in IT, it could be a CompTIA credential. In health sciences, it might be a certified nursing assistant or phlebotomist credential. And in business, it could be a Microsoft Office specialization, or it could be tied to accounting and entrepreneurship.

The goal, Connolly emphasized, is to help students graduate with an industry certification that will help them get a job "right out of high school that will help pay for them to continue their education."

The program began with a "soft launch" in-county last fall to "work through the kinks" Now, it will kick off statewide starting in the new academic year.

NVLA runs middle school and high school programs. The middle school is a hybrid. Learners come in two days a week and have direct instruction with teachers, "building their capacity as online students," Connolly explained. High school is completely online. About 250 students take all of their schooling through NVLA; another 4,500 take one or two classes. The school has always offered AP courses, she emphasized. This is the first time, however, that the state will be applying Title IV Part A funding to supplement the cost for students across the state to the online courses.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.