Yours Virtually: Advanced Mathematics and Physics in the Israeli Virtual High School
The increasingly growing number of virtual high schools around the world has engendered new modes for teaching and learning and a promising area of re-search. While research in this emerging field has mostly taken a comparative lens that highlights differences between traditional modes of teaching and online teaching, research on high school students’ and teachers’ perspectives has remained dearth.
This study identifies students’ and teachers’ perceptions of their learning and teaching advanced level mathematics and/or physics in the first Israeli virtual high school (VHS), which was launched five years ago.
A survey of 41 questions was disseminated to the first graduating cohort of 86 Grade-12 students as well as to 22 VHS teachers. Additional data sources include students’ essays on what it means to be a student in a VHS and field notes from a pedagogical development day.
The purpose of this study is to highlight the workings of the Israeli VHS and in particular its important building blocks that include a teacher-tutor model, an ongoing gauging of students’ work through a Learning Management System (LMS), and a continual teacher-developer interaction for the purpose of developing cutting-edge, technology-based course content.
Given the unique features of the Israeli VHS, both teachers and students report on feelings of unit pride, motivation, and investment in teaching and learning in the VHS.
The Israeli VHS uses a combination of a teacher-tutor format, together with tools for gauging students’ work and ongoing interaction between the teachers and the course content designers. Such a context creates new, fertile ground for technology-based, fully online teaching and learning of school mathematics and physics that may contribute to alleviating the problem of decreasing numbers of learners who are interested in taking advanced-level courses.
Further exploration of aspects for improvement in the teaching model of the VHS, its design, and its support system and for finding out factors that impact attrition lay down important research trajectories that have not yet been trodden.
Issues of equity and the democratization of learning of advanced STEM subjects are now possible to be seriously considered in a principled manner within the context of the VHS.
Future research may focus on the affordances, possibilities, and limitations of learning within a VHS to ensure a more robust process that will allow more students to learn advanced mathematics and physics.