Source: AVI Chai Blog
Four years ago, Virtual High School (VHS, Inc.) was offered the opportunity and the challenge to create a program that would provide online Judaic studies courses to Jewish day schools across North America. The opportunity was exciting. We knew our expertise and experience was us up to the task; the Virtual High School has provided online General studies offerings to public and independent school for almost 25 years. The challenge with this specific project, however, was daunting because of the numerous questions we faced: How could we create a community of learners among Jewish day schools with differing goals and missions? How should we decide which courses to develop and offer to these schools? How could we best meet the needs and requests of the schools while ensuring that we follow our own best practices, and articulate those practices to the schools?
As in all educational initiatives, we had to clarify our goals first so that we could begin working towards them. Our mission defines us as a community of Jewish day schools working collaboratively with The Virtual High School to develop and deliver high quality online Judaic studies courses to day school students throughout North America. Our Advisory Board helped us clarify our goals and understand the varying needs of schools, and the potential and possibilities for online courses in those schools. Our courses would enhance the curriculum, fill in gaps, enable students to learn with educators from other schools, provide students with the opportunity to study with students in other Jewish day schools, differentiate learning, and solve scheduling challenges. We were excited and ready to create this unique and powerful learning community for students and teachers in North American Jewish day schools.
The Online Judaic Studies Consortium (OJSC) aspires to be the bridge between educators, scholars, students and communities. As program director, I have visited more than 35 schools in the past four years and met with several hundred Jewish educators to learn about schools’ needs and to share our model and program with them. I have learned a great deal from these schools and their educators who share their vision with me. Through OJSC, educators connect with their peers with similar interests and approaches, while schools come together around a particular initiative or course. It is a real privilege to visit so many schools and see firsthand the incredible learning communities that have been created.
Courses dealing with Israel are the most requested to date and, consequently, we have four courses in our catalog on the subject. Courses that deal with Jewish history and Jewish values also are highly requested, and we have developed several courses that are interdisciplinary and integrate Jewish values into other subjects. Schools use these courses as electives for their students who enjoy the variety in the subject matter and the change of style in the learning.
Read more at the AVI Chai Blog.