The Virtual High School Announces New Computer Science Pathways Certificate Program

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Last year, the White House reported that despite the growing importance of computing to America’s economy, cybersecurity and national security, only 40 percent of K-12 schools offered a computer science course. Many schools lack the funds and expertise to teach computational skills to their students. The Virtual High School (VHS, Inc.), a non-profit empowering schools with the industry’s best online learning programs, is helping educators address this need through a new certificate program consisting of combinations of courses that allow students to explore different aspects of the computer science field and earn a computing certificate.

The intention behind the certificate program is to encourage students to broaden their participation in computer science related courses and to recognize students when they successfully complete three or four semesters of study in this area, “said Kim Spangenberg, Associate Dean of STEM at The Virtual High School.  “With a new, more holistic approach to computer science in mind, we’ve suggested courses for students to create an engaging, relevant and comprehensive pathway that can fuel interest and enthusiasm, while building knowledge and skill. 

To earn a certificate, which can be added to a college portfolio, students must complete three or four semesters of study in computer science.  VHS has created suggested pathways to help guide students through a series of courses based on their interests.  Students may take three semester-length courses, starting with introductory application based courses like Scratch and Video Game Design, followed by courses in Web Design or Java programming.  Alternatively, they may opt to take an AP track starting with AP Computer Science Principles, which provides a survey of the computer science field while focusing on computational thinking and introductory programming, followed by AP Computer Science A, a college level Java programming course.  Or, students may choose a combination of both AP and elective offerings, based on their specific interests.

The Virtual High School computer science certificate program is part of the CSforAll initiative announced in the White House Fact Sheet during the 2016 Computer Science Education Week last December. In addition to awarding the certificate, VHS will connect students who have completed a pathway with a professional in a computer science or a related field. That professional will act as a mentor, giving the students an opportunity to discuss career options, network, and understand what it’s like to work in the industry.

The certificate program complements other recent VHS computer science initiatives. In fall 2016, the organization was one of the first online providers to launch AP® Computer Science Principles, a college-level, College-Board approved computer science course designed for all students in grades 10-12, not just those interested in STEM subjects.

VHS is a member of the non-profit CSforAll Consortium whose goal is to expand access to computer science education for all students. The CSforAll Consortium provides a central location for access to computer science education providers, schools, funders and researchers.

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