The Virtual High School: A Great Learning Opportunity or Dangerous to Education?

David Leff, Journalist

Many Ipswich students have taken The Virtual High School (VHS) online classes. Students take classes not offered at IHS, classes they cannot fit into their schedule, or classes for the online experience. Although options increase with VHS, is something sacrificed in the process?

VHS, a non-profit organization that provides high school students with an expanded curriculum, offers a wide range of courses: honors, standard, elective, and over 20 College Board approved AP courses. Over 15,000 students enrolled in VHS in 2013-2014, including schools in 47 states and 34 countries/territories.

I spoke to Mr. Carovillano, the coordinator of VHS at Ipswich. We discussed his opinions on VHS and how it is run within the school. He stated that he thinks VHS is a well run organization and that it is a solution for scheduling problems and a way to broaden Ipswich High School’s course catalog. One drawback he mentioned was that there is not any direct interaction and that the teacher does not have a constant presence.

Ipswich High School currently has 50 slots for VHS, 25 slots for each semester. One rate is paid for the 50 slots, whether they are filled or not. Any extra classes on top of that costs the school more money, which is why the school limits the number of VHS courses that can be taken each year.

In the three years that he has been doing this, Mr. Carovillano said that of the 50 slots that the school has for VHS, most or all of them have been filled. In terms of the future of VHS in Ipswich, Mr. Carovillano says that, “We have a good amount [of slots] right now because we like to keep it as something that is an addition to the courses we normally offer. . . . We want them to take our classes and our teachers first.”

I also interviewed three students, each taking a different VHS course: English, history/social studies, and  science. I will give my opinions on my math course.


First, I interviewed Emma Johnson who took AP English Language and Composition. She took this class VHS because the school did not offer it. She wanted to take this course because it is different from the school’s AP English, AP English Literature and Composition, and would give her a different set of English skills. Emma said that she really enjoyed this course, but that it was a lot of work. She also noted that she did not think that the virtual discussion boards were as good in VHS as in an actual classroom setting. Overall, Emma says that she would recommend this class for VHS.

Second, I interviewed Anagh Tiwary, who is taking AP Human Geography for history. He took this class VHS because he is interested in human geography and the school did not offer it. What he likes about this course is that there is a lot of flexibility, which is good for him because he has a lot of extra-curricular activities. What he dislikes about this course is that some assignments, in his opinion, do not aid in learning. He also mentioned that he did not like the fact that he was not learning from the teacher. When compared to an IHS history class, he said that the assignments were similar, but that VHS had a more uniform structure each week and had less examinations. Overall, Anagh said he would recommend a VHS history class.

Third, I interviewed Stephen Blake, who is taking AP Physics 1. He took this course because he wanted to take AP Physics and AP Chemistry, which occupied the same period. What he likes about the class is that he has a week to do the work; as long as he gets the work in by the end of the week, it does not matter when he does it. What he did not like was that there was work over vacations and that most of the discussions did not pertain to what he was learning. Stephen also said that there were labs in VHS, but that they are less guided than in a school course. Overall, he said that he would recommend AP Physics for VHS, but not many other lab science courses.

I am taking AP Statistics VHS because it and AP Calculus were the same period. I like that this course has a similar workload each week and that it has me doing a lot of AP problems. I dislike that most of the discussions have nothing to do with statistics and that a lot of the work is very easy. From an AP standpoint, VHS does not prepare me as well for the AP test as Ipswich’s class would, but it has similar assignments to Ipswich’s statistics class and the tests are cumulative, which helps me remember what I have already learned. Overall, I believe that if you are passionate about math or struggle in it, you should not take math VHS, but if you have scheduling issues or just want to try a new type of math course, I recommend VHS.

I hope that this gives you a better idea of what VHS is and why it may be beneficial to take online courses.