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While reading Disrupting Class, I got to thinking about how we can offer some courses to support those few students who may want to take computer science (private school--small enrollment). Do you know of a good online course provider for AP computer science A and AB? Apex and UC College Prep do not offer these courses. I searched and could not find any other online provider. Do you think a student can learn computer science well enough through independent means?

Tags: AP, computer, learning, online, science

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I love the idea of a VIS, and I will definitely be talking to our Head of School about this discussion and how she might see us getting involved.
But I also think of the many public schools, especially in rural areas, who are starving for resources, and I wonder whether a VIS might not serve them as well. I can see many reasons, including all the issues of certification, meeting state standards and dealing with state testing etc., not to include public schools. These concerns derailed a similar idea we explored briefly on MiddleTalk some years back (it would have been a virtual charter school).
However, as someone educated in a public school, and someone who participates in NMSA and NELMS with many wonderful public school people, I have to express concern at the notion that restricting participation to independent school people automatically lowers anxiety levels about the dangers of the Internet. If we are not to include public schools, please let it be for other reasons than that.

I did not mean to imply anything about fearing the dangers of the internet, and I'm sorry for any confusion. We have had past experiences with students taking classes locally that we did not offer, either via the local community college or at a specialized arts public school. Some were successful, some less so. We've not done either for a while due to scheduling difficulties, difficulty with credits, grading expectations, etc. It take monumental effort on everyone's part for this to succeed. VIS sounds, frankly, easier for everyone once it is set up.

Our dean's concern is primarily a desire to start small, with an environment and setup that makes school administration, students, and parents comfortable and confident. We're thinking that students will still be "ours" but will be taking a class via the VIS. We'll give the credit and have final say on the students' transcript grade.

For example, a group of independent school educators is going to understand what it means to work with a rotating schedule, which will become 6 or 7 rotating schedules once students at multiple schools are involved. Independent schools also have a penchant for running on completely different schedules for good reasons. (if this announcement sounds familiar to you, then you might teach in an independent school "There have been three snow days on Tuesdays this year, so next Thursday will follow a Tuesday schedule, making Friday a Wednesday in the Upper School, but Friday will be a Friday in the Lower and Middle Schools.") In other words, there will be absolutely no consistency of availability for any particular group of students.

When I think of successful educational "spin-offs," some are more similar to what Christensen describes, such as Eagle's Nest Outdoor Academy which is supported by an independent school consortium, and largely attended by students from schools in that group, but is run independently. I don't know how truly disruptive VIS would be, it is more like Christensen's model for what happens when big companies try to incorporate disruptive innovation into their existing model.

Of course, independent schools are already outliers in the education world. So, in theory, we should be nimble enough to get this done!


Thanks for clarifying! I would easily agree that it makes sense to start small, make sure people are comfortable and confident with what we're doing, retain individual school say in their students' participation, and any credit/transcript questions that might arise. And, since I've done a number of collaborative online projects with other schools, I totally get the importance of understanding flexibility on schedules.

Here's to nimbleness ;-)

Take care,
Sarah and Bill,

The 'dangers of the Internet' phrasing was mine, not Sarah's, and I apologize for it. It was not meant at all as a dig at public schools. I too attended public schools and currently have a child in our local public high school. I guess, having spent the past few years dealing with many parents who are extremely anxious about the dangers of the Internet, I'm a bit over focused on avoiding this controversy.

Thanks for writing, and I totally understand. I apologize for reacting so strongly and so quickly, and for making an incorrect assumption. I've known you (virtually) a long time, respect you a great deal as a principled educator, and, well, should have known better.
So - back to planning. It is a really exciting project, and it's so much fun to see it evolving as a genuine possibility. Let's hope we can get those 10+ schools.
Take care,
I don't know how truly disruptive VIS would be, it is more like Christensen's model for what happens when big companies try to incorporate disruptive innovation into their existing model.

Sarah, In Innovator's Dilemma, Christensen's first book on disruptive innovation, he finds that only way the companies he studied successfully dealt with disruptive innovation was to create spin-offs that focused totally on developing both a market for the new technology and the technology itself. I think what we are proposing is very much a variation of that approach.

Hey Fred,
I was wondering if you ever developed the online Java course for students? My sys admin, who used to teach the Java course at Greenhills, left this year for greener pastures. School administrators will not hire to teach one classfor such a small group of students. I've been following this discusion, considering my options and thought this looked promising
Hi Jan,

I've done quite a bit of work developing the course. You can see more about it here:

Hi I'm a part-time APCS teacher for a public school in Tucson Arizona, and I'm offering an online version of this as well.

It uses the cutting edge ObjectDraw Library to teach APCS objectives. I've been using it for about five years with fantastic results (Most of my students get a 4 or 5 on the A and AB tests). or

There's a short video of what some of the assignments look like on the course philosophy page.


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