The fully accredited Independent Study High School has gone through a number of changes during the almost 70 years it has been owned and operated by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. None of those changes has been as dramatic as the school’s recent transformation to an on-line high school, offering a college-preparatory diploma over the Internet through a separate for-profit company called Class.com, with courses available 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world.
“It’s an example of how the technology is going to foster a lot of entrepreneurship, partnerships, and collaborations,” Jamie P. Merisotis, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, told Andrew Trotter of Education Week.
The Independent Study school, with a current enrollment of approximately 2,000, largely serves individual students such as home schoolers, child actors, and children in remote rural areas. Class.com, however, plans to market its courses not only to individuals but to school districts and state departments of education, gaining access to large groups of students along the way. Most of the more than 600 students already taking Class.com’s on-line courses are from a special education district in California.
Funding for the development of the on-line high school’s technology was provided in part by a $17.5 million “Star Schools” grant from the U.S. Department of Education. A similar school, the Virtual High School, was developed by the Concord Consortium. It involves 27 schools with 550 students in 12 states and three countries, and was funded by the U.S. Department of Education through a $7.4 million Education Technology Challenge Grant. (See “Virtual High School Now on the Internet,” School Reform News, February 1998.)