Reasons to Add Online Courses to High School IB Programs


By Xuan You

When Shekou International School (SIS) opened in Shenzhen, China in 1988, it was the city’s first international school.

Serving international passport holders, SIS is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). What started with two teachers and 18 students today finds itself home to more than 400 students. Since 2003, when administrators were looking for innovative ways to offer more learning options to students, it began partnering with VHS Learning and offering the SIS secondary school a multitude of courses from the nonprofit to enrich the curriculum choices for its students.

Students appreciate the range of course options, gain important skills through the online format and benefit from classes that provide the opportunity to interact with other students from around the globe. As an online learning provider, the organization can also offer incoming transfer students a learning option to “catch up” to their peers and others have used it as a credit recovery solution.

Here are some of the reasons SIS is using online learning as part of its high school program:

Provides varied learning opportunities

SIS has developed rigorous programs that place high expectations on students to perform well across a wide range of subject areas in preparation for the IB Diploma program. However, as a small to mid-size school there may be subject-specific interests that students want to explore. At SIS, the online courses offered through the nonprofit complements the school’s course offerings by giving students expanded learning opportunities. SIS reviews its catalogue of 300+ different courses and SIS preselects the courses from which students can choose.

Preps younger students for what’s ahead

About 20 or so SIS students are enrolled in the online supplemental high school courses at any given point. These ninth and tenth graders generally take one or two online courses as their electives. These courses support student interests and even university program/career planning by exposing them to specific content.

Teaches communication and time management skills

Because they work independently online, students can hone their communication and time management skills, both of which are important at the university level, in the work world and in life in general. In fact, SIS’ students have repeatedly told me that once they master time management skills, they’re not just using them in their online courses. They use those skills in other high school classes and apply them in other aspects of their lives.

Broadens their horizons

Students also get to know peers who live in other countries, thus broadening their horizons right from their own computers. SIS’ students like the interactions they have with students from other countries. As one student recently summed it up: “As the world gets closer, VHS gave me a valuable lesson in learning how to interact with new people over a distance.”

As the perfect companion for SIS’ existing curriculum, the online learning options that are offered foster student curiosity and allow them to dabble in subjects of interest. It also aligns well with developing self-management skills, in preparation for the performance pressures and academic demands of the IBDP program. It meets their needs, while not impacting their other studies. It’s a real win-win.

Xuan You

Xuan You is the Director of Global Programs and Services at VHS Learning.

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