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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

AP Computer Science class to try out partial online format next year


The school is offering a blended version of the current AP Computer Science (APCS) class for next year, in which students will only be required to attend class on designated quiz and test days.

Currently, the APCS class operates in a flipped classroom style: Students watch APCS teacher Debra Troxell's online instructional videos for homework and complete assignments about the lessons in class.

“What we’re trying is a class that will give students more flexibility,” Troxell said. “So for instance, if a person completely understands a lecture that [we posted] online, then they don’t necessarily have to come in to class [the next day] if we’re just going to [review it].”

This will be the first class in the school's history to be taught mostly online — at least for some students.

Students next year who choose the new option will complete assignments at home instead of in the classroom, as long as they have parental permission, a reliable home computer and maintain an average grade of at least 85 percent in the class. Otherwise, students will attend class with the other APCS students who do not choose the new option.

Troxell said she wanted to try a “hybrid” between a traditional classroom setting and an online class so that she could adjust to “the way education is going [while still] controlling the pacing of the class and understanding of the students.” She also said the APCS students logically seemed to be a group that would succeed in this new format.

Nevertheless, all students in the class — whether or not they choose the new approach — will proceed through class materials at the same pace.

The only change is that more class materials such as worksheets and programming assignments will be available online, she said.

“[Everything else] would be the same as before — the class will go at the same rate, have the same quizzes and tests, have the same rigor and expectations and students will have the same understanding,” Troxell said.

Sophomore Alexander Li, who is taking the current version of the class, believes that the blended option will “give students more flexibility about what they do with their time,” as they can choose between attending class and learning on their own at home.

“[The change] offers students more options,” Li said. “They’re not forced to go to class, but if they still choose [to attend] they can communicate their ideas and learn from the teacher and other [students there as normal].”

Li added, however, that students choosing the new option would miss out on the important experience of working with their peers in class.

“I think that a large part of [the class] is that we are able to communicate with others [and] learn from [their] ideas,” Li said. “The change might make it so that [students] are only relying on what the established curriculum is.”

Senior Kristie Lin, who is also currently taking APCS, said the changes might also take away the “solid understanding in the material [that] teaching in class ensures.”

“[When] Mrs. Troxell assigned videos for us to watch at home and lectured on the material the following class, it [was] easier to understand the material,” Lin said. “The teacher-and-student interaction makes the class more enjoyable.”

Nevertheless, Troxell hopes the change will benefit students who are already experienced in programming or can easily figure out the material on their own. Additionally, she will be able to give more attention to the students who need more help.

I am the first teacher of the first class [that is going to try this new format],” Troxell said. “It’s an experiment, but I think it’s a plausible experiment.”

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