Kids can’t drive a Model T on today’s highway

I just read an interesting article on Civic Caucus with Justin Treptow, head of the Minnesota Virtual Academy (MNVA) out of Houston, MN. MNVA is a state approved on-line K12 school program; it’s one of the largest providers of public education delivered via the internet in Minnesota. They have more than 2,000 students. The article provides a glimpse at what online education entails.

To start, each student is expected to have a parent or other adult learning coach at home during their work day (6-7 hours a day, 5 days a week). Teachers will check in daily with learning coaches of younger students (K-5). Students in elementary through middle school are given computers and printer/scanner. They use Elluminate for the curriculum. Here’s what Treptow had to say about Elluminate…

The Elluminate platform allows students to communicate verbally with their teacher through the use of the students’ computer microphones and non-verbally through a chat window. Through the use of Elluminate, Skype, and email communication the teachers are able to conduct both class discussions and small group activities held in virtual “break-out rooms”. A student sitting at home in Fergus Falls can interact with other students through Elluminate by the use of the whiteboard, microphone, or chat line. In Elluminate teachers can use tools such as an on-line file transfer mechanism which allows the teacher to “pass out” materials during these live sessions. And all lessons are recorded so that students may re-visit the session later or catch up with work when classes are missed due to illness. Homework assignments are passed between student and teacher via email and online drop boxes. Science labs are conducted by teachers, transmitted via web-cam and recorded for future viewing. Even group projects are possible via email and chat lines. Pacing of learning varies from student to student, with some students learning much faster and in greater depth alongside others needing more time to master the basics.

It sounds as if they also try to schedule some face-to-face activities, which I think is great for students in the area. The school has been successful and they are expected to grow, assuming that students have the infrastructure they need to connect…

Treptow contends that the virtual school will continue to find growing acceptance as educational technology advances and as families come to recognize that jobs in the 21st century will require the kind of computer-centered skill that a virtual education provides. However, he cautioned that the state must continue to work on providing the necessary bandwidth in all areas of the state in order to assure that this kind of opportunity is available beyond the larger cities. He likened DSL/dial-up access to “driving a model-T in an Indy 500 race”; it puts outstate regions at a huge educational disadvantage. He also feels that much can still be done in the near future to advance the hardware in order to provide faster computing, automatic linkage to the Internet and real time browsing.

This entry was posted in education, MN, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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