Local teachers launch online education business

TRAVERSE CITY – While they believe nothing can replace face-to-face class time and learning in a traditional classroom, a trio of East Junior High teachers is transforming themselves into a virtual teaching team.

Lauren Chapple and Dave Hendrix, who will be returning to East Junior High this fall, and Marsha Myles, who just retired in June, have formed a company that allows students to incorporate online learning into their daily schedule, giving them more flexibility and opportunities in their education.

"We're not trying to replace teachers and not looking to replace the traditional classroom," said Myles. Their new business venture, CyberEd Specialists, LLC, (CES) is simply giving students more options for learning.

What was just a seed of an idea a few months ago is taking off quicker than ever imagined and getting an enthusiastic response from area school administrators, Myles said. This past summer, both Suttons Bay and Mancelona used CyberEd Specialists for parts of their summer school programs.

The group formed this past February in response to the new Michigan Department of Education graduation requirements in effect for this fall's freshmen class. Students will have more options to achieve those requirements and more time for electives, such as music, art, and foreign language. Also new to those requirements is an "online learning experience."

CES is designed using the state's new "competency" requirement, which replaced the "seat time" basis for determining high school credits. Instead, when students exhibit "competency," credit is given and they can move on to other courses. CES also addresses a new "online learning experience" requirement.

The Cyber Ed classes are aligned with the state standards in each of the four content areas: language arts, math, science and social studies. The program is unique in that it offers diagnostic testing and a modular learning approach, said Chapple, and thereby delivers courses based on students' particular needs and allows for remediation of specific topic areas.

For some students it will be a way for them to advance faster and get into Advanced Placement courses. For others it will allow them to take more electives during the typical school day and complete the core subject requirements in the evenings or in the summer. And for others still, it will offer the remediation they need to achieve the state's "competency" benchmark. Students can progress through the courses at their own paces and will have a mentor monitoring their progress.

Each of the teachers, and now business partners, is the course developer and instructor for a specific subject area. Rod Taplin is the course developer and instructor for social studies. As the business grows, the partners will hire more teachers, Chapple explained.

Right now the group is focused on establishing its presence in schools across this region and expects to be statewide by the beginning of the 2008 school year.

In another year or so, Chapple expects the business will be nationwide.

"It doesn't exclude anyone," Hendrix said of the program, which is appropriate for any type of school environment. "It's a piece of the puzzle for a lot of students."

For details about course offerings and pricing, visit www.CyberEdSpecialists.com.

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