Creating a school curriculum that provides breadth, depth, and meets the needs of all students and their future education and career goals is a constant challenge for Catholic school educators. With budget constraints and challenges in staffing and enrollment, schools are limited in the courses they can offer. Oftentimes, a small group of students may express an interest in a particular subject, but there isn’t a qualified teacher available or there are not enough students to make it feasible to offer the course.
Supplementing with online courses is a cost-effective solution. No matter how many or how few students are interested in a course, all can be accommodated. The flexibility of online courses allows students to complete coursework at their own pace and schedule, giving them the skills in independent learning, time management and virtual collaboration that they will need for higher education and careers.
How Catholic Schools Filled the Gaps
Trenton Catholic Academy (TCA) in New Jersey did not offer calculus. One of their students was interested in attending the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), which expects freshmen to have taken calculus prior to matriculating. To support her educational goals, TCA partnered with Catholic Virtual to offer the course during her senior year. She completed the course, earned admission to RIT, and was also offered a full scholarship. The student also shared that the asynchronous learning and independent study that the course required helped her develop the self-pacing and time management skills she needed for success in college.
TCA went on to offer additional online courses in their daily schedule to better prepare students for the future. Michael Knowles, president of TCA, noted, “Catholic education must meet the academic, social, emotional, and spiritual needs of our students in the 21st century while remaining grounded in tradition. TCA has chosen to partner with Catholic Virtual to do just this. Online learning, whether in a blended model or fully online, is now part of how we educate and is here to stay.”
St. Maria Goretti Catholic High School outside of Baltimore was facing a teacher shortage as the 2020-21 school year approached. To fill the gap, the school partnered with Catholic Virtual to offer physics (including Advanced Placement), AP Biology, and electives in graphic design and American Sign Language. Following a positive response, the school continued the partnership for the 2021-22 school year; 60 students have enrolled in Catholic Virtual’s Latin I course.
“Working with Catholic Virtual has been a wonderful experience, providing the opportunity for our students to take electives that they never would have been able to take previously. Catholic Virtual has also sparked my thinking in how we could revamp our entire course offerings moving forward to provide more choice and opportunity for our students moving forward,” said Shannon Storch, the school’s principal.
Pathway to College Success
Another way schools can enhance their students’ educational experience is through dual credit opportunities. Catholic Virtual’s partnership with Marquette University allows Catholic school students the opportunity to take college-level courses during their junior and senior years of high school. At $800 per course, a fraction of the university’s standard fee, students can enroll in up to two classes per semester, either in conjunction or in addition to their high school course load. Classes are taught by Marquette instructors trained in best practices for online learning and students receive guidance and support through regular office hours and periodic check-ins.
Not only can students earn up to 30 credits toward their undergraduate degree, shortening their time to graduation and saving them money, they are also eligible for a college scholarship from Marquette. And success in college-level coursework can help them stand out in the college admissions process, demonstrating that they have the skills in independent learning, collaboration, and self-discipline to succeed in higher education.
Partnering with Catholic Virtual can help schools attract and retain students seeking courses and learning experiences not currently offered in a school’s curriculum. Catholic Virtual brings peace of mind with courses that challenge students, reflect Catholic values, and help prepare students for success in college and beyond.
With over 200 K-12 online courses, including Advanced Placement options, schools can easily fill in any curriculum or staffing gaps. In addition to core subjects and theology courses, Catholic Virtual offers many elective subjects not usually taught in a K-12 curriculum, such as cybersecurity, coding, American Sign Language, and graphic design. Students can explore interests, discover new passions, and prepare for higher education and careers.