Academic alternatives: Blended and BVA course formats

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By Shreya Vaidhyanathan, Co-Webmaster With the end of last year’s online format, students and teachers alike swore that they would never join a Teams or Zoom meeting again; that they would finally be able to go to school in person and return to some sort of normalcy. However, two alternatives remain available to students who...

By Shreya Vaidhyanathan, Co-Webmaster

With the end of last year’s online format, students and teachers alike swore that they would never join a Teams or Zoom meeting again; that they would finally be able to go to school in person and return to some sort of normalcy. However, two alternatives remain available to students who prefer to keep some online classes: blended courses, which combine live and asynchronous instruction, and fully virtual courses taught by the Brandywine Virtual Academy (BVA). 

Conestoga is offering Personal Finance as the sole blended course. Personal Finance teacher Bernadette D’Emilio sees a lot of value in the blended format and believes that education is not “one size fits all.”

“The current education system isn’t set up perfectly for every student, and (blended instruction) creates some flexibility for them. If they work better at home sitting in their backyard at five o’clock, they can do that,” D’Emilio said.

The project-based course has asynchronous lessons on even cycle days and meets live on odd cycle days. On asynchronous days, blended students have the option to do their classwork from home and arrive at school after first period, or come in on time and use it as a free period. Days with live instruction are identical to regular classes, the only difference being that students have the option to log on through Microsoft Teams or attend in-person. Students can choose whichever option on any given day; they are not locked into one choice for the duration of the course. 

Junior Angie Chen is one of four students in the blended Personal Finance course. She hopes to see this blended format expanded to other courses in the future as the class has proved itself a very positive experience thus far. Chen prefers blended classes to regular ones because it gives her extra time to complete work, as well as allowing her to arrive at school after first period every even cycle day.

“Students should be able to make that choice based on their own learning style, and I think that (flexibility) is really important,” Chen said. 

BVA’s course catalog is comparable to Conestoga’s, offering both electives and leveled courses (including Advanced Placement and honors classes). For high schoolers enrolled in BVA, work is completely asynchronous, with office hours available at certain times throughout the week. The eight students participating in BVA are still enrolled and registered as TESD students, granting them the privilege to participate in school sports and activities. When the students return to ’Stoga, BVA classes will appear as transfer credits, with GPA remaining unaffected.

“The pandemic forced us into a type of education nobody expected to be in,” said Anthony DiLella, supervisor of special education, world languages and music. “Put yourself in those students’ shoes: if there was a reason that you didn’t feel comfortable coming into the building, wouldn’t it be nice to know that you had an option to access your education outside of the building?”

Sophomore Mohit Manna chooses to attend BVA for safety reasons, and plans to return to Conestoga after the first marking period. He enjoys virtual courses as they allow him to learn at his own pace and feels that they are preparing him for college. 

“You obviously won’t stay in grade school for the rest of your life, so when you grow up, you need to know how to make plans: short term, long term, whatever it is,” Manna said. “Learning that at this age (will make) it easier for you when you grow up.”

Others agree that blended courses and BVA give students the opportunity to be more involved in their own education. By giving students experience with asynchronous work prior to college, they provide familiarity and time management skills.

“The reason we come to work in the morning is to look at what we do and how we can improve the school experience for all the kids, kindergarten through 12th grade,” DiLella said. “And that’s what we’re doing with these experiences.”


Shreya Vaidhyanathan can be reached at [email protected]

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