From left, Ashland High School math teacher Tammy Anderson, senior Max Parker-Shames and Spanish teacher Dana Rensi work in one of the school's computer labs. The school has developed a secure Web site called that gives students access to their assignments 24 hours a day. - Bob Pennell

Online Classroom 24-7

When Robyn Hernandez planned her English lessons last year for Ashland High School students, she posted the class notes, handouts and links to relevant Web sites on a course management site developed and owned by the Ashland School District.

"If someone is absent the only thing they miss is the discussion," Hernandez said. "But there's a class forum on the Web page so they can have a discussion online about the lesson."

Hernandez was part of a pilot program last year spearheaded by Ashland Spanish teacher Dana Rensi to develop and implement the online course management site called

About 10 teachers participated in the program, creating GrizzNet Web pages for one or more of the classes they taught with items such as lesson plans, class notes, quizzes, tests, videos, multimedia presentations, podcasts, blogs and forums.

This school year, the site is open to all of the school's instructors who choose to use it, and it's emblematic of a growing trend of making classroom content accessible online 24 hours a day, said Steven Nelson, instructional technology director for the Oregon Department of Education.

"That style of a classroom management site that Ashland is using is one that is being replicated all over the state," Nelson said. "That is online support and online lessons used to enhance instruction and extend it through the day into the evening."

Rensi used Moodle, a free Open Source software package, and adaptable ready-made curricula from the Oregon Virtual School District to create the site and a $15,000 OVSD grant to train teachers on the software.

Students can use the site to reinforce information they learned in class, catch things they missed and work on homework at any time with an Internet connection.

The site is meant to enhance classroom instruction rather than replace it, Rensi said.

"Kids learn all the time," Nelson said. "Some students, especially high school students, might do their homework in the middle of the night. It makes education on demand and it prepares kids for the workplace, where almost everything is done on a computer."

Students and teachers have a user name and password to log into GrizzNet (named for the Ashland High School's Grizzly Bear mascot), so there's no danger of contact with child predators or others.

Max Parker-Shames, an Ashland High senior who will help train students on GrizzNet, said having coursework available online is more convenient and saves time.

"I'm a self-directed learner," he said. "I like doing class work at my own pace."

Teachers can use OVSD curricula to start their Web page and modify the content as they like, adding to it or rearranging it.

Even teacher training on how to design a classroom Web page is provided through GrizzNet, Rensi said.

Sixty-two out of Oregon's 198 school districts now offer some type of online instructional aids with OVSD resources. The state invests less than $1 million into OVSD, which pays for online classes, more than 70 types of online curricula teachers can modify, teacher training and technical support, Nelson said.

"The best example of implementation is truly Ashland, and they were doing this on their own before they started working with OVSD," Nelson said.

Online sites such as GrizzNet are one of the tools the state has identified for helping schools meet new graduation standards, Nelson said.

Ashland High next year will offer a math credit-retrieval class with a heavy online component in which students can work at their own pace and earn credit for showing proficiency in coursework they previously failed. They will go to a lab, log onto GrizzNet and work on concepts they need to master with a teacher in the room available to help.

One example of an online lesson might be a multimedia presentation in which a teacher's voice explains an Algebra slope formula written on the screen while a digital demonstration shows how to chart the slope.

Students can take the course while they're enrolled concurrently in another math class.

"We have kids who struggle at one year of math," said Tammy Anderson, who will teach the credit-retrieval course. "They might take the same class over and over. This is a way to help them move on to another two years of math while still recovering the concepts they might have missed."

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Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or

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