APEX puts Advanced Placement classes online

Your students will get the chance to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes online under a new program coming this fall. Called APEX‹short for Advanced Placement Excellence‹the program is aimed at home schoolers and students whose schools don’t offer the AP classes they would like to take.

“I think it’s a huge initiative,” said Bob Vaughan, coordinator of highly capable student programs for the Seattle Public Schools. “This will help motivated students leapfrog over any organizational barriers that stand in the way of AP classes at their own schools.”

Traditional AP courses prepare students to take a College Board exam which, if they score high enough, will reward them with college credit. The College Board offers Advanced Placement exams in 30 subjects. Many smaller schools or districts, however, cannot afford to offer the full range of AP classes because of insufficient student demand.

Yes, you get credit for this

“To create a course, you need about 25 or 30 students to justify the cost,” said Vaughan. “[APEX] offers the opportunity for the ambitious student to work within an online format without having to hire another teacher.”

Though the Seattle Public Schools offer a wide variety of AP classes, many individual high schools within the district offer only one on two choices. Vaughan said his district will allow students to earn full credit for AP courses taken online through APEX.

APEX is described on its web site as an “independent educational enterprise,” which means it’s a for-profit program. The founder of APEX is Paul Allen, also co-founder of Microsoft.

The company will offer AP Calculus this September and will add Environmental Science and U.S. Government and Politics in January.

According to Susan Pierson, a spokeswoman for the company, the idea was to start small and then expand the program by at least five courses each year over the next few years.

A peek at APEX

APEX courses will consist of a series of modules: tutorials, or multimedia lectures explaining a concept or presenting new information; assessments, or short, ungraded quizzes with instant feedback so students can check whether they’ve understood the lecture; assignments, which give students the chance to demonstrate their knowledge by submitting work online to the instructor for evaluation; and discussions, which pose questions for an online conversation with the instructor and other class members.

Students will need access to a PC with CD-ROM multimedia capability and Windows 95. APEX currently is looking into the feasibility of offering its courses on Macintosh computers, but the company has no current plans to do so.

Students can complete the work for an APEX course when it’s most convenient for them, at any time of day. But students will be expected to maintain steady progress and meet weekly requirements.

Instructors for the APEX courses are all high school AP or college instructors, many of whom have distance-learning experience. Shana Calaway, for example, has taught mathematics at the University of Washington since 1983 and has designed more than 20 distance-learning courses. Calaway co-developed the APEX calculus course along with Joe Miller, who teaches AP calculus at North Kitsap High School in Poulsbo, Wash.

“APEX isn’t trying to be a substitute for classroom teaching,” Miller said. “It’s for people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity.”

Paying the price

That opportunity won’t come cheap, however. Tuition for each APEX course is $295 per semester. The tuition doesn’t cover the $75 cost of the AP exam, which students must arrange to take separately through the College Board.

APEX argues that $295 is less than the per capita cost of classroom instruction in most districts. The company encourages schools to cover some or all of the program’s cost for their students.

Vaughan said no decision has been made whether the Seattle Public Schools will foot the bill for its students. He said it’s very likely, though, that at least some of the cost will be covered by the district.

Students must register for this fall’s APEX calculus class by June 15. For more information about the program, call (800) 453-1454.

Advanced Placement Excellence

College Entrance Examination Board

eSchool News Staff

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