If a Eugene (Ore.) public school program catches on, trying to convince lagging students to suffer hot, stuffy classrooms while their friends cavort poolside might be a thing of the past.

Eugene Public School District 4J’s CyberSummerSchool, now in its second year, gives students the chance to take summer classes online–and the ability to work when it’s most convenient for them.

CyberSummerSchool is an extension of the district’s popular CyberSchool program. Launched during the 1995-96 school year, CyberSchool has engaged over 100 students in learning via the internet this year. Most were from Oregon, but the program’s students also have hailed from 11 other states, plus Japan, Korea, and Turkey.

“We view CyberSummerSchool as a third semester to the school year,” said Jack Turner, CyberSchool’s principal.

Using the internet as a tool for learning can change the face of summer school, Turner said. With the internet, summer school no longer has to apply just to students who must make up credits, nor does it need to be viewed as a form of punishment.

Rather, the internet provides a valuable opportunity to extend the learning process beyond the boundaries of the traditional school year, just as it allows teachers to transcend the normal constraints of class periods.

Some students do enroll to make up credits, but many participate for other reasons. They want to get ahead, for example, or they’re lured by the chance to take courses that aren’t offered at their regular school, like Horror Literature or World History Through Film.

In the Horror Literature class, students read the works of writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, and Anne Rice. They listen to Real Audio lectures from the instructor, eMail their writing assignments to the instructor for review, and participate in online discussions through a class listserv.

Best of all, they can plan these learning experiences around summer activities like trips to the beach.

All CyberSummerSchool teachers are Oregon-certified, with certification required in the subject they are teaching. About half are teachers in the Eugene district, Turner said, and half come from other districts around the state. They share a familiarity with the internet and a willingness to teach year-round.

Classes open to all

CyberSummerSchool is open to any interested student with access to eMail and the world wide web. Tuition for most classes is $300–two-thirds goes to the class instructor and the rest helps pay the administrative costs of the program.

All classes conform to Oregon’s standards of learning, but students who are interested should check with their own school first to make sure credit will be accepted. Many schools also will pay the tuition for the program, particularly if it’s a class the school can’t offer itself, Turner said.

A full list of classes offered is available on the CyberSchool web site. Classes run from June 15-Aug. 14, and enrollment ends June 19, 1998.