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Feature Article Online Education: Tool or Hype by Marlin Detweiler

Educational Helps by Laurie Detweiler

Free Offer




February 2008


Feature Article


Online Education: Tool or Hype?


All you need to do is google the words online education to see that the rise of education on the internet has been as swift and substantial as a moving freight train that has lost its brakes. And while the means of delivery is through our computers, the variations as to how courses are conducted are myriad. Live courses (synchronous), recorded (asynchronous), using video, not using video, discussion, and lecture are just a few variations we’ve observed.


According to the Sloan Consortium, an organization dedicated to helping online learning organizations, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that nearly 3.5 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall term of 2006. Nearly twenty percent of all U. S. higher education students were taking at least one online course. Honestly, there is so much growth in this industry that it is hard to keep up with.


As this age comes upon us we had better consider the learning objectives we wish to accomplish before we get drawn into what is sure to be much hype along with any substance. We’ve seen slick web sites with all kinds of offerings. There are basic programs and premium programs, packaged programs and ala carte programs. It won’t take you long to realize there a host of options. What are the principles to apply? It seems there are three fairly basic matters—who’s the teacher, what’s he teaching, and with what curriculum? Many other concerns could be raised but knowing answers to these questions will help narrow the field substantially.


If you had told us ten years ago, after starting two classical Christian schools, that we would be directing the level of effort toward online education that we now are, we would have said you were crazy or you had been watching way too much Star Trek. Yet two years ago, when Veritas Academy teacher, Bruce Etter, approached us wanting to supplement his income by teaching some courses online, we were ready to talk. By then we had been looking very seriously at how we might serve our customers better through this venue. This was a good fit for us, as we knew first hand of Bruce’s extraordinary capabilities. Still, we decided to come in from the shallow end. Offering only two courses—both Omnibus I Primary Books—we carefully watched the response. Allowing only 18 students in each class, we found very quickly that there were at least 36 students out there ready, willing, and able—and the classes filled quickly. So far, so good.


Of course, hurdles remained. Would the technology be reliable? How would the learning be different than with live, in person, teaching? Better, worse? One word describes what we observed—incredible! The learning and interaction was far better than we had dreamed. In basic terms what the students actually got out of the courses (and I expect you will find this hard to believe) was no less than what would be realized in a traditional teaching environment at home or school and maybe more.


Just imagine, it doesn’t matter where the teacher lives. As long as they have high speed internet and a microphone they can teach. This opens up to us the best teachers around the whole world. Now imagine students from France, England, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, Taiwan, Bermuda and Pennsylvania all in the same classroom. When discussing the History of the Kings of Britain there is a whole different dynamic and perspective coming from students from England and Bermuda than from Ohio. Imagine a discussion of the War for Independence that includes students from England and the United States, or the Communist Manifesto when the discussion includes students who have lived in a former communist country. Such experiences open the eyes of students and help them to realize that God is working in the whole world, not just in their own locale.


The technology affords other benefits. Not only can discussions involve a broader range of backgrounds and experiences, but students can listen to music, see great art, and watch a news segment all in the span of one class period and in a very neat and efficient way. Frankly, we’ve found that what we feared would be lost without face to face interaction, was overcome by what was gained.


We’ve heard some concern that children should not spend hour after hour, day after day in front of a computer. We agree. But we also must make distinctions. A computer as a medium for delivery of technology used for discussions is hardly the same thing as watching video lectures or playing computer games.


Many of you have asked what we are planning for in the future. Last school year we offered two courses. This school year, we have 18. For the 2008 -2009 school year we are offering around 50. We can easily envision complete course offerings from twelfth grade all the way down to fourth grade. (At present we find it hard to imagine working with students younger than that.) Starting this year we will be providing transcripts for all courses that are taken through Veritas Press Scholars Online. In the near future we also plan to offer a certificate of completion grade by grade to those students either enrolled in our online classes or who use Scholars lesson plans. There are other plans, too. But, this is enough for now. We’re already a bit overextended around here.


These marketplace changes bring world-class expertise right into the living room and local classroom. Many homeschools have known this for some time. But schools can benefit, too. In the early years of most new schools, there are not enough students to justify teachers for certain courses. Geography can be limiting, too. At present those able to teach an advanced Latin or Greek course are not in plentiful supply. The economies available from the portability of education are remarkable, but choose wisely. And if you happen to choose us . . . Thanks.


Marlin Detweiler


Educational Helps


We make cards, we give candy but have you ever asked the question, “Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?” Legends are numerous surrounding Valentine’s Day, but here are a few.


One legend has it that St. Valentine was a priest who lived in third-century Rome. During this time Claudius II ruled the Roman Empire. If you have studied the New Testament Greece and Rome cards with your children, then you will know this occurred around the time of the split of the Roman Empire. As usual, Rome was at war, and Claudius decided that unmarried men made better soldiers, so he forbade marriage. Valentine decided this was not fair, so as a priest he went ahead and married couples anyway. When Claudius found this out, he had Valentine put to death.


One of the most famous legends says that Valentine was an imprisoned man who fell in love with the jailor’s daughter during his stay. Before he was executed he wrote the young woman a letter and signed it “your Valentine.” As we all know, this phrase is still in use today.


Another legend says that St. Valentine was a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died February 14 in 269 A.D., thus the day for the celebration. Some believe that this man was the same one mentioned above who loved the jailor’s daughter. Valentine became a patron saint, and young Romans celebrated the annual holiday by offering the young woman they wanted to court hand written greetings of affections.


We may never know exactly how this holiday got its start, but it is fun to celebrate. This is a wonderful time if you are using Shurley English (or even if you’re not) to do some letter writing. We have provided some Valentine’s Day cards for you to use, and it would be fun to include a letter with them. Think of someone that your children might not have seen for awhile. Grandparents, old friends in the neighborhood, cousins, or an aunt or uncle would be a good start.


Also, in celebration of Valentine’s Day we are holding a coloring contest. From the same Valentine’s file, have your child select one of the pictures to color and enter into the contest. A $50 gift certificate from Veritas Press will be given to the family who sends us the picture we judge best in each age group. There will be winners in each of three age categories: 3 to 5, 6 to 9, and 10 to12. Submissions must arrive at Veritas Press, 1829 William Penn Way, Lancaster, PA 17601 by 5:00 PM EST February 29, 2008.


Laurie Detweiler


Free Offer


Free Teacher Training Conference Registration
See the announcement below for more details on our summer teacher training conferences. The ten largest orders in February will be entered into a drawing, with the winner receiving two free registrations to the training conference of his choice.




Q. My children are older, and I feel that their grammar skills are rusty. Maybe they never got all they needed. I looked at Shurley English and don’t think they need quite so much repetition. Do you have any suggestions for catching them up?

A. Nancy Wilson has written a book, Our Mother Tongue, that is a great review of English grammar. It is quite appropriate for secondary school students and can be gone through rather quickly, if need be. This should give them all the necessary tools to be proficient in grammar.


Q. I am concerned lately that I don’t give the arts enough attention. My children take piano lessons, but that’s about it. In particular, I want them to have an appreciation for the beautiful. What should I do?

A. You might consider studying an artist each month. We carry a series called Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists. (See fourth grade art and fifth grade art on our web site.) These books are wonderful. Take one and make a lapbook (lapbooking is like scrap booking) with the contents of it. While you are doing this study, you should try and go see some of the artist’s work at a museum, if you live near one. The same can be done with musicians. When our children were young, we also listened to the Classical Kids CD’s with them. Exposure is one of the best things you can do for your children. And take them to an opera or a symphony. You may find they fall in love with it.


Please submit any questions you’d like answered here to




Online Classes

Registration for Veritas Press Scholars Online classes is now open for the 2008–2009 school year. Families with currently registered children will be given priority until February 11th. But don’t wait—new families will be handled in the order they are registered, and we had over 50 registrations in the first hour they were offered. Click the link above to learn more.


Veritas Press Teacher Training Conferences

Our recent survey indicated enough interest to do two teacher training conferences this summer—one here in Lancaster so you can enjoy the local flavor of things like shoo-fly pie, and one online.


Voddie Baucham, author of Family Driven Faith, will be the featured speaker at the 2008 Teacher Training Conference July 21–23 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


Our online only teacher training conference on August 6–8 will feature Joel Belz, Douglas Wilson and Oliver North as key note speakers.


Those who choose to take advantage of one of these foundational learning opportunities will leave the conference invigorated, with clear tools, methods and plans to teach and administer a classical Christian education in their school or homeschool. We will also be offering Latin-in-a-Week, Omnibus I-In-A-Week and Omnibus II In-A-Week July 21–25th.


Look for a brochure with all the details in the mail in the coming months if you are already on the ACCS or Veritas Press mailing lists, live east of the Mississippi, or live in California or Texas. If you fall outside these categories, to ensure you receive a brochure send a request with your name and mailing address to


Job Openings in Lancaster, Pa and Online

Purchasing, AP & Web Site Maintenance – Veritas Press has an immediate opening for a person skilled in purchasing, accounts payable and web maintenance. Come to Lancaster, have fun, work hard, and enjoy God’s goodness with us. Send resume to


First Phone – Veritas Press has a mid-summer opening for what we call “First Phone.” Duties include customer service, answering customer emails, processing orders, and of course being the first to answer the telephone when customers call. Imagine one call from Dallas and the next from Auckland. Fun, huh? Send resume to


Online Teachers – Veritas Press Scholars Online has teacher openings for the 2008–2009 school year. Experienced teachers can work from home, the beach, or anywhere high-speed internet is available. Openings currently include Composition, Greek, Math, Rhetoric, and Science for secondary classes (grades 7–12) and in Bible and History in upper grammar school (grades 4– 6 only). Additionally, if you are interested in teaching these or other disciplines in the future, let us know. Anticipated growth makes us want to pre-qualify good candidates now. Send resume to


Web Designer – We have need of consulting or contract services for highly talented web design work—someone who has as much talent as our graphic designer does in his field. Send resumes to



Visit us on the web at or call us at 1-800-922-5082.