Logging on

Technology is making education more accessible for students, especially those who enroll in online programs.



Four years ago, Cameron Alred decided to enroll in the Stanford University Online High School, a virtual education program he attends at his Tulsa home. He chose it for its rigorous academic program and nontraditional environment.

When other students used free time to play basketball, Cameron Alred preferred staying behind to talk with the teacher about the day’s lesson. 

That might include anything from an obscure scientific principle to an intricate math equation.

Four years ago, the high school senior’s distinct curiosities led him to enroll in Stanford University Online High School, a highly selective virtual education program with students from across the globe. 

Admission at the tuition-based school is difficult, but it is only one such online program for kindergarten through grade 12. Oklahoma has multiple free virtual programs open to all state residents that are regulated under similar rules as public charter schools. 

The reasons students choose online education vary. Some, like Alred, are looking for a different academic challenge and learning environment than what is available locally. Others travel regularly for competitive athletics and need the flexibility virtual school provides. And some are seeking respite from harsh bullying by fellow students at their area school.

In just a few years, virtual education has become one of the fastest-growing school options nationwide. Because it’s so new, research is still mixed on how effective this choice is for students. 

Policy analysts do agree that online schools — like their traditional counterparts — need proper oversight and transparency. 

 

Online interaction 

Students in the virtual school system attend live Web classes and discussions with their peers and teachers. If they miss a live session, or want to review points for further study, a recorded video is available to view at any time.   

To demonstrate how this works, Alred opened a recorded course on his laptop while sitting on the couch in his living room, one of many locations he may attend online classes. Adobe Connect, an online conferencing program, displayed a PowerPoint presentation in the center while a small video in the left-hand corner featured his teacher discussing each slide. 

While the teacher speaks, students are encouraged to “text chat” amongst one another about the lesson in a scrolling bar below the main video. “It’s a school where passing notes is encouraged,” says Darin Alred, Cameron’s father. 

If a student would like to speak via video, she or he may “raise a hand” and the teacher will call on this person, followed by the student’s video displaying via webcam on the screen. In math classes, Cameron Alred also uses a computer tablet to draw math problems or other notes that will appear for the students and teachers to see during the live course. 

Emily Garner is a seventh-grader at Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy. Her family was attracted to the academy’s flexibility of when and how she may receive her lessons. She mixes her time between attending live classes and watching the recordings. She’s expected to complete at least 3 percent progress on her full school year each week, and finish all assignments by midnight Sundays. 

Seventh-grader Emily Garner attends school through Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy, one of five Oklahoma free online public charter options. Garner can accelerate her learning and participate in extracurricular activities she would be unable to do with a traditional school day.

The program allows her time for other experiences such as volunteering at a Tulsa Global Alliance event last November.

“I could attend Kids’ World all week and meet new friends because I didn’t have to worry about being in class at a specific time,” she says. 

With many programs, kindergarten through eighth grades typically have more flexibility than high school, when GPAs and college admission become important. And the younger grades require much more parent involvement and less time online. 

Along with classes, each school offers multiple online clubs in which students might become involved, including student council, honor societies, foreign language, science, arts and so on. Cameron Alred participates in computer programming and 3D modeling clubs. 

If students or parents need to connect with teachers throughout the week, they hold regular office hours and are available via email and phone. 

“We have parent-teacher conferences, and it’s interesting because in their comments, I can tell the teachers really know Cameron,” Darin Alred says. 

Another advantage cited by online learners was the additional courses that cater to their personal interests. 

Garner is taking honors algebra, which she would have had to wait another two years to take at her local school. This year, Cameron Alred is enrolled in university-level courses offered by college professors. 

“I have students taking Chinese and music courses connected with the Julliard School,” says Donna Hogan, a high school math teacher at Oklahoma Connections Academy, one of the tuition-free virtual public schools in the state. “There’s no way many students in Oklahoma, particularly in rural settings, would otherwise have access to these opportunities.” 

 

Beyond the screen 

What both Alred and Garner say they miss from brick-and-mortar schools is the regular, in-person interaction with fellow students and teachers. 

Alred has been satisfied with finding a social outlet through his church youth group and the regional meet-ups with Stanford OHS students. He also attends in-person summer sessions at Stanford. 

For Garner, it has been more difficult. In October, she seriously considered transferring back to a traditional school for the social interaction, even though she feels there are more options and challenges in the online environment. 

Garner lives in Inola, which is about a 30-minute drive to central Tulsa. This gives her fewer extracurricular options nearby that aren’t connected to the traditional school system. And the monthly regional field trips provided by her virtual school in Tulsa, where she can meet with fellow students, haven’t been enough to create deep friendships, she says.

Garner’s mother, Jennifer Garner, is working to create an in-person group to show virtual students how to cook and sew. “This will combine both a social and learning environment,” says Lee Garner, Emily’s father. 

In the future, her parents also hope more standard public schools, as well as homeschool-based extracurricular activities, will be open to participation by students enrolled in online education.

 

School standards 

As the head of school at Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy, Sheryl Tatum emphasizes that there’s more flexibility, but within parameters. 

“You can’t choose to only do one math lesson this week. There are still deadlines students must meet,” Tatum says. “We’re a public school in Oklahoma, so we have a governing board and the school is accredited by the State Department of Education, which audits us just like any other brick-and-mortar.” 

Oklahoma online public charter schools, which are only available to state residents, began in 2011. With the formation of the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board in 2012, these schools must be approved through the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board and are accredited by the Department of Education. The online schools are required to follow laws in place for other Oklahoma charter options.  

Since online education is new, experts say it’s difficult to know how well each school and student is performing without further analysis and more information. A 2012 Center for Public Education report found a “troubling overall picture of poor performance and low graduation rates for full-time online students.” Alternatively, other studies revealed positive gains for online students in K-8. 

In 2013, the University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center recommended state agencies ensure these schools are fully reporting information, along with creating outcome measures designed for full-time online students. 

While online education’s success will become clearer in the years to come, Darin Alred believes it’s important to listen to each child’s needs. 

“If parents find themselves with a kid that is wired a little different, or their local school isn’t connecting with their needs, don’t be afraid to look outside the box and find another path,” he says. “For Cameron, he lights up and can’t stop talking about something that happened in class, which is very validating that we made the right decision.”

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October 2019

The Brush Creek Bazaar is South Tulsa's largest and longest running Arts and Crafts Festival. This year we will host over 70+ vendors, featuring handcrafted items from all around the region. We...

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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
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Telephone: 903-292-7885
Contact Name: Zachary Johnston
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Cost: Free

Where:
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More information

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Cost: $ 6 - $ 20

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Endangered Ark Foundation
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Sponsor: Endangered Ark Foundation
Telephone: 580-317-8470
Contact Name: Emily
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Telephone: 918-272-2281

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Cost: $8 for ages 13+; $4 for ages 3-12. Children 2 and under are free

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Telephone: 918-289-0330
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Cost: $1,250

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Sponsor: Abersons
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Contact Name: Scarlet Henley
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Cost: $15

Where:
Studio K (Tulsa) and Zarrow Studio (Broken Arrow(
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View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
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More information

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Cost: Free

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Sponsor: TU College of Law
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Cost: FREE

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Sponsor: City of Broken Arrow
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Cost: 109

Where:
THE DANCE PLACE
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TULSA, OK  74107
View map »


Telephone: 918-813-6514
Website »

More information

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Cost: $10 / $15

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Cost: 0.00

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View map »


Sponsor: Arabian Horse Association
Telephone: 303-6964500
Contact Name: Kelsey Berglund
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More information

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Cost: $8 for ages 13+, $4 for ages 3-12. Children 2 and under are free.

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson

More information

Willkommen to four days of Oompah (or Bavaria or Oktoberfest) in Oklahoma  with nationally known German bands, authentic European foods, arts and  crafters MarktHaus, full carnival, and fun...

Cost: $10 at the gate or $7 in advance for adults. Children 12 and under are FREE.

Where:
River West Festival Park
2100 S. Jackson Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74107
View map »


Sponsor: Resolute PR
Telephone: 903-292-7885
Contact Name: Zachary Johnston
Website »

More information

Living Arts of Tulsa will present a multi-media exhibit of Jave Yoshimoto’s work. Intractable Chasm examines the refugee crisis in Greece, experienced firsthand by Yoshimoto when he...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East Reconciliation Way
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »

More information

Hello, Friends!   Fall is in the air! We are excited to present the 5th Annual Hugo Pumpkin Festival, a fun-filled event featuring a variety of entertaining activities for the whole family....

Cost: $ 6 - $ 20

Where:
Endangered Ark Foundation
2657 E 2070 Rd
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View map »


Sponsor: Endangered Ark Foundation
Telephone: 580-317-8470
Contact Name: Emily
Website »

More information

Abersons presents Pink Ribbon -- an exclusive, high-fashion fundraiser featuring a runway show by one of the world's hottest designers. Cocktails 6 p.m. | Dinner & Live Auction 7...

Cost: $1,250

Where:
Southern Hills Country Club
2636 E. 61st St.
Tulsa, OK  74136
View map »


Sponsor: Abersons
Telephone: 918-834-7200
Contact Name: Scarlet Henley
Website »

More information

Go into the woods and experience the return of this fantastic family production with performances in both Tulsa and Broken Arrow. Tulsa Ballet's Hardesty Family Foundation Children's...

Cost: $15

Where:
Studio K (Tulsa) and Zarrow Studio (Broken Arrow(
1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Telephone: 918-749-6006
Contact Name: Dan
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
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2445 S. Peoria Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74114
View map »


Sponsor: Nimrod Journal
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
Website »

More information

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Cost: $0

Where:
Tulsa Historical Society and Museum
2445 S Peoria Ave
Tulsa, OK  74114
View map »


Sponsor: Nimrod Journal
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
Website »

More information

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Cost: $24.50-$75.00

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9341 N. 129th E. Ave.
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View map »


Sponsor: Compassion Live
Telephone: 877-234-3847
Contact Name: Carol
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More information

Originally from West Africa, Kizomba is a partner dance that is a sexy addition to any Latin dance party. It is the fastest Latin growing dance in the U.S. Come and learn the basics plus a few more...

Cost: 109

Where:
THE DANCE PLACE
3310 WEST 42ND PLACE
TULSA, OK  74107
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Telephone: 918-813-6514
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The annual US National Arabian & Half Arabian Horse Show returns to Tulsa. You will be able to see over 1700 Arabian and Half Arabian horses competing in many divisions, including Breeding/In Hand...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Tulsa State Fairgrounds
4145 E 21st St,
Tulsa, OK  74114
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Sponsor: Arabian Horse Association
Telephone: 303-6964500
Contact Name: Kelsey Berglund
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Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry will host its annual Conference for Readers and Writers at The University of Tulsa on October 19th, 2019.   The Conference offers the...

Cost: $10-$70

Where:
TU's Allen Chapman Student Union
440 S. Gary Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74104
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Sponsor: Nimrod Journal
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
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Nimrod Journal will host its annual Conference for Readers and Writers on Saturday, October 19th, at The University of Tulsa. The conference will feature workshops on fiction, poetry,...

Cost: $10-70

Where:
Allen Chapman Student Union
440 S Gary Ave
Tulsa, OK  74104
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Sponsor: Nimrod
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
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Willkommen to four days of Oompah (or Bavaria or Oktoberfest) in Oklahoma  with nationally known German bands, authentic European foods, arts and  crafters MarktHaus, full carnival, and fun...

Cost: $10 at the gate or $7 in advance for adults. Children 12 and under are FREE.

Where:
River West Festival Park
2100 S. Jackson Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74107
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Sponsor: Resolute PR
Telephone: 903-292-7885
Contact Name: Zachary Johnston
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Hello, Friends!   Fall is in the air! We are excited to present the 5th Annual Hugo Pumpkin Festival, a fun-filled event featuring a variety of entertaining activities for the whole family....

Cost: $ 6 - $ 20

Where:
Endangered Ark Foundation
2657 E 2070 Rd
Hugo, OK  74743
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Sponsor: Endangered Ark Foundation
Telephone: 580-317-8470
Contact Name: Emily
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The Karbach Games and Competitions Arena becomes our own center of the universe Saturday at 2:00 PM for true fans of German bier. Why? Because it is ground zero for the Linde Oktoberfest Bavarian...

Cost: $40

Where:
River West Festival Park
2100 South Jackson Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74107
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Sponsor: River Parks
Contact Name: Ryan Howell

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America’s LARGEST interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa Broken Arrow! At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: 59.95

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
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Go into the woods and experience the return of this fantastic family production with performances in both Tulsa and Broken Arrow. Tulsa Ballet's Hardesty Family Foundation Children's...

Cost: $15

Where:
Studio K (Tulsa) and Zarrow Studio (Broken Arrow(
1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
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Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Telephone: 918-749-6006
Contact Name: Dan
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Abersons presents Pink Ribbon -- an exclusive, high-fashion fundraiser featuring a runway show by one of the world's hottest designers. Cocktails 6 p.m. | Dinner & Live Auction 7...

Cost: $1,250

Where:
Southern Hills Country Club
2636 E. 61st St.
Tulsa, OK  74136
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Sponsor: Abersons
Telephone: 918-834-7200
Contact Name: Scarlet Henley
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Folk Salad Radio Show celebrates its 20th anniversary with a potluck meal followed by a concert featuring Grammy-nominated singer songwriter John Fullbright and several other Tulsa musicians on...

Cost: $35

Where:
The Stone Church
4225 W. Fifth St.
Tulsa, OK
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Sponsor: Folk Salad Radio Show
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Join us for Nimrod Write Night, the opening event of our Nimrod Conference for Readers and Writers weekend, on Friday, October 18th, at the Tulsa Historical Society, 6:30 p.m. Write Night is...

Cost: free

Where:
Tulsa Historical Society
2445 S. Peoria Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74114
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Sponsor: Nimrod Journal
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
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Originally from West Africa, Kizomba is a partner dance that is a sexy addition to any Latin dance party. It is the fastest Latin growing dance in the U.S. Come and learn the basics plus a few more...

Cost: 109

Where:
THE DANCE PLACE
3310 WEST 42ND PLACE
TULSA, OK  74107
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Telephone: 918-813-6514
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Flashes of vivid colors, laughter, dancers whirling around keeping pace with the energetic music, more laughter……this is what you will experience at Guthrie Green this Saturday,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Guthrie Green
111 East M.B. Brady Street
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: SAPAF
Telephone: 918-665-6419
Contact Name: Mohan Kelkar
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Tulsa in Harmony is a congregation of community choirs, lending their voices in one accord. They sing of their hopes and their faith and aspirations of a more unified community and a more unified...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gathering Place
2650 S. John Williams Way E.
Tulsa, OK  74114
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Where:
ONEOK Field
201 N Elgin Ave
Tulsa, OK
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What's New


Oklahoma's Best-Sellers: Oct. 13

Based on total number of book sales at Magic City Books, Best of Books in Edmond, Brace Books and More in Ponca City, and Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City.

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CLIFFDIVER on mental health, Tulsa and their new music

A Q&A with the Tulsa band that describes its sound as "Elevator Emo Pop"

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Oklahoma Best-Sellers: Oct. 6

Based on total number of book sales at Magic City Books, Best of Books in Edmond, Brace Books and More in Ponca City, and Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City.

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Henna Roso on food insecurity and songwriting

Members of the Tulsa funk, jazz band discuss their new album and what drives them

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MUSED. combats mental illness with poetry

Tulsa’s poetry and collaborative arts nonprofit, the MUSED. Organization, is teaching local adolescents who require psychiatric care how to utilize the benefits of poetry.

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