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The Chronicle of Higher Education
Friday, October 8, 1999

U. of Nebraska Will Supply On-Line High-School Courses in Kentucky


A for-profit company created by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln has scored a major sale: It will provide on-line high-school courses to a new virtual high school in

"This is a major step forward in terms of creating an equality of opportunity for all students in Kentucky, particularly those in rural areas."

On Thursday, Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton announced that the state would purchase courses from the company, called, to help launch the Kentucky Virtual High School. The high school will offer on-line courses to students throughout the state beginning in January.

Mary Beth Susman, the chief executive officer of the Kentucky Commonwealth Virtual University, said Kentucky would pay $195 to for each student enrolled in one of its courses. The virtual university has worked with other state agencies to develop the high school.

Richard Edwards, the senior vice-chancellor at Nebraska, said the university founded with the goal of helping school districts like those in Kentucky make education more accessible and equitable.

"We have been working hard for three years to make courses that work in exactly the kind of circumstances that Kentucky has identified," he said. "We believe that the courses we can offer will provide a wonderful base for just this kind of widespread dissemination."

The Kentucky Virtual High School will license 10 to 12 courses from Although the content of the courses is developed by Nebraska, students will sign up at their local high schools in Kentucky and take the Web-based classes with certified Kentucky teachers. All of the classes are offered almost wholly on line, with some CD-ROM and video supplements.

Ms. Susman said state officials would like Kentucky high-school teachers to be able to create some of their own on-line courses. To meet this goal, the state has contracted with, which provides services and consulting to faculty members and institutions hoping to put courses on line, for training and software. Leaders of the high school also plan to work closely with the existing Kentucky Commonwealth Virtual University.

Ms. Susman said the deal between Kentucky and demonstrates that the lines dividing high school from college education are blurring as a result of on-line education.

She said that the Kentucky Virtual High School would enroll 900 students in its first semester, and that the goal was for it eventually to have 4,000 to 5,000. Initially, the virtual school will focus on advanced math, science, and language classes, offering courses such as Advanced Placement calculus. Ms. Susman said the aim was to provide all students in the state with access to the same classes, regardless of the wealth of the student's school district.

"This is a major step forward in terms of creating an equality of opportunity for all students in Kentucky, particularly those in rural areas," she said. was launched last spring by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, which has operated an accredited, correspondence-based high school since 1929. Leaders at the company hope to continue to contract with individual high-school districts or consortia of districts to offer their courses.

It is not surprising that Kentucky looked to an outside source for some of its initial courses, said Phyllis Lentz, a resource and research specialist at Florida High School, a virtual high school in Florida. "The development of curriculum is a very time-intensive process," she said. Because of national curriculum standards, "a course doesn't always have to be reinvented -- it can be transferred to another state or environment," she said.

Florida High School has been in existence for two years and currently works with about 2,000 students in 57 counties.

Ms. Lentz said she anticipated that other states would soon establish programs comparable to the Florida and Kentucky virtual high schools. "From the number of phone calls we get, it sure seems like everybody is," she said.

Background story from The Chronicle:

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Copyright © 1999 by The Chronicle of Higher Education