The pilot program for online classes begun in 2017 will continue this year as an established part of the curriculum. The online program allows high school students to take courses not offered physically at CESJDS.
The Online Judaic Studies Consortium and the Virtual High School both offer extensive varieties of different subjects such as specialized mathematics, science, Judaic studies, history and creative writing classes.
Online classes cannot replace required core or Judaic studies classes at CESJDS, and a student can only have two credits worth of online general elective classes and half a credit of online Judaic studies for their entire academic career.
Dean of Academics Aileen Goldstein thinks that online classes are an important way to offer students various subjects that could not be fit into their regular schedule.
“As broad a range of classes as we offer, there are always things we just can’t offer in a school our size that students are interested in,” Goldstein said. “There are other places they can get that education. We want to open up that opportunity while the student is here to expand those horizons beyond what we can offer.”
Junior Sasha Trainor enjoyed her online Judaic studies class because it allowed her to finish her course work more quickly, giving her ample free time to finish other work for the rest of the week.
“It is different because you can go at your own pace, so you don’t have to move as slowly as you do when you have other people in the class [who work at different paces],” Trainor said.
Sophomore Zoe Wertlieb plans to take an online Judaic studies class this year related to connecting modern themes to the book of Psalms. She believes that it will give her a chance to learn something new in a course different than a traditional Tanakh course.
“I felt that the online class options were better than the real ones offered at school,” Wertlieb said. “The other ones just don’t seem very interesting to me.”
While the classes do not require a fee from participating students, JDS does have to pay for them, so the school can only allow a limited number of students to take each course. This number varies based on JDS’ yearly budget but typically ranges between 16 and 32 students.
Students who would like to participate must apply through their guidance counselor by the end of the previous school year, and students with less flexible schedules get preferential admission into online programs.
Director of Instructional Technology Ginger Thornton thinks that online classes are valuable because of the unique skills a student can gain from taking them.
“You have to be much more of a self-advocate in an online class…. In an online class, you can still have a personal relationship with the teacher, but it is different,” Thornton said. “It is someone that at most you have met in a virtual meeting and you never meet them face-to-face. Learning how to learn in that environment, I think, is very important.”
Goldstein believes that it is valuable to offer online classes, but also thinks that it is beneficial to limit the number of online classes a student can take.
“I think that in the same way different teachers and disciplines fulfill different needs for students and provide different experiences, I think the online [experience] is yet another experience,” Goldstein said. “We really value the teacher-student relationship and that is why we are limiting the amount of online classes any student can take in their high school career.”
This story was featured in Volume 37, Issue 1 print edition of The Lion’s Tale, published on Aug. 27, 2019.