Case Study: Stanford Online High School

Virtual Classroom

The following is a case study that Stanford Online High School published in collaboration with Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (VPTL) at Stanford, in their course, Blended and Online Learning Design from Stanford.

Stanford Online High School (OHS) is an accredited high school serving students in grades 7 to 12. Stanford OHS is a part of Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies (SPCS) and brings together more than 800 students from across the country and around the world to form a vibrant intellectual community. Courses are offered on a college-like schedule, with most classes meeting twice a week in real time for 60 to 70 minutes. Outside of class, students watch recorded lectures; read course texts; and complete written assignments, problem sets, labs (at home using lab kits), and other projects. They also take exams, using proctors in their location who are registered with the school. Class size is capped at 16 students for high school courses and 14 students for middle school courses, with a strong focus on teacher–student and student–student relationships. All class meetings are run seminar-style in real time using a virtual classroom.

Stanford OHS’s virtual classroom sessions are supplemented by teacher office hours, held weekly, and through asynchronous materials presented in Canvas. Students use Canvas to access the course schedule; find readings, videos, and other class materials; upload their work; and receive feedback from their teachers on their assignments.

Stanford OHS’s small class size and real-time seminar meetings in the virtual classroom are intended to form a close community of students and teachers. The school has a high-touch model that requires significant investment in terms of teacher time, teacher expertise, and technical support. In addition, as an accredited, degree-granting school, Stanford OHS offers a full suite of academic advising, counseling, and college counseling services.

While synchronous online classes are at the core of the Stanford OHS experience, the school also runs several optional in-person events each year that have a strong impact on student engagement during the school year. The most significant of these are a two-week summer program on the Stanford University campus (one week for middle school students) and an extended graduation weekend, also on the Stanford campus, that includes events for all grade levels as well as a prom for students in the high school. In addition to such school-sponsored events, Stanford OHS facilitates family-run meetups in locations throughout the United States and sometimes internationally so that students residing in nearby geographical locations can meet in person. The school has found that such in-person activities, while not absolutely essential to student success, provide a great benefit to students in forming close and lasting bonds with their peers and with the school.