Ask students about "Florida Virtual school," and everyone has a story about "how easy or how hard" their online class was or "how great or how boring," depending on the subject and the experience.
Chances also are great that more than a few know someone who copied and pasted answers from popular websites (some Yahoo Answers entries label information as answers to FLVS tests), or slacked off over many months and passed, or paid a classmate to take the class for them. Spurred by the Times special report about Florida Virtual School, its rapid growth and sparse data so far to measure its effectiveness (see story this page), tb-two* interviewed Tampa Bay students to learn more about the reality of virtual learning.
Compiled by Kelly Smith, Chamberlain High; Taylor Gaines, Newsome High; Andrea McCray, Middleton High; and Michael Newcomer, Tarpon Springs High
* * *
Mariana Laxague, Gaither High junior
I heard about some girl paying like $90 for someone to do her class for a semester. And I feel that it's kind of not smart on your part. I understand that some classes in high school are boring, but you have to take the class for a reason, and paying someone is just the easy way out. You're not learning anything.
Neil MacInnes, Chamberlain High senior
FLVS was a great program for me because I wanted the extra credits for my GPA. For the most part, every teacher I had through FLVS communicated with me on a frequent basis. Although it took a while (to finish), it was engaging and interesting enough to keep me working. I would definitely recommend FLVS to others who are willing to work hard but also who like not having the stringent time constraints of a regular classroom schedule. I think that you should have to take the tests at a center, and if caught cheating you should not get credit for any of the course.
Rachel Dwyer, Chamberlain High junior
I took FLVS to help my GPA and to get a fine arts credit through an AP course not offered at my school. I did it mostly on the weekends and any night I had off of homework to do my class. I would do it again, because it's great to have an opportunity to take a class that interests me but isn't available at my school.
Bree Cullen, Newsome High senior
My friend cheated off her best friend, and they caught it. They failed them and made them redo the whole class.
I have taken economics on FLVS. (It's) a handy resource to use if needed, but can also be really annoying.
Heather Nelli, Middleton High senior
I took driver's ed because I didn't have room in my schedule to take it during school. I got an A. I did two lessons a day, and I went through a lot of the simulations. I didn't have any mishaps. It was very smooth. (FLVS) helped me stay focused without the distractions from other students.
Adrienne McLean, Middleton High senior
(I took) Spanish I, Spanish II, AP U.S. History and AP Lang. I finished with at least B's and C's. I did the monthly calls by myself, and I had help with Spanish.
Nick Tabus, Tarpon springs High senior
HOPE (Health Opportunities Through Physical Education) on Florida Virtual is like taking AA classes at a bar. I really played around with it. I told my teacher I was like 300 pounds and dropped down to the low 200s by the time the course was over. I didn't do any of the exercising.