North Carolina Virtual Public School Classes: Review (AP Computer Science, Mandarin Chinese 1)

20 Sep

Have you wondered what the NCVPS or North Carolina Virtual Public School classes are like?  Well, I can’t speak for all of them but since there is little information online about them, I can hopefully provide some overview in general and detail overview about two.  First, online data suggests that the curriculum is much weaker compared to traditional courses, students in AP courses generally score much lower than students who take AP courses in their regular school, although if the course is not offered, you can may not have a choice and you always self-study with outside sources to improve your chances of doing well – but, don’t rely on the curriculum to prepare you in all AP classes, especially math classes.  I have known students who have gotten A’s in NCVPS math classes that were very unprepared and did very poorly in their next math course that followed.

Classes that I can speak in more detail about since my son is taking them are AP Computer Science and Mandarin Chinese 1.


Mandarin Chinese 1:  First, it is very difficult to learn a language online.  My son is able to be successful because of a tutor working with him but without a tutor, he would be totally lost and I would not suggest this class to a student without a strong drive and high interest in Chinese.  The course has 10 lessons and in the beginning they move very slowly but then the pace picks up very fast and is too fast!  The student has to learn Pinyin, how to write Chinese using English characters and do 5 assignments that teach this phonetic foundation of Chinese.  They have to learn about 30 new vocab words per week.  They get a grammar lesson that shows how grammar structures are used in Chinese, this is confusing and then take 10 quizzes that are all in Chinese characters that relate to these grammar lessons, this is the most challenging part of the class (although they get unlimited tries).  They must meet for 45 minutes twice a week online with a language coach (true class time).  They must also read 10 mini-plays to the teacher throughout the semester on a skype type session one on one.  They must participate in discussion board responses about the culture and they have 2 projects due at the end of the semester.  The language level intensity ramps up pretty quickly, it is not like they just learn numbers and then names of things in a house, etc.  They learn these dialogues that integrate all these grammar structures and are trying to learn both the pinyin and some character recognition at the same time.  I think if they paced the class differently it could be better but the rapid increase in pace is a concern and although my son has managed the basics okay in the beginning, I worry how he will keep up towards the end and be able to then handle a Mandarin 2 class if it has a same pace.  Without a doubt, I suggest a tutor once get past lesson 1 – if you get one from the start, they can help lay the correct foundation.


AP Computer Science:  This is another class where they are trying to do too much!  My son gets overloaded with work that really just is not needed to grasp the subject!  He gets two, sometimes 3 programs a day to write and the teacher wants students to not just write normal documentation but to explain in detail what every line of code does, include a description, and what you learned – so each program becomes like a paper and takes time because of all the requirements.  The teacher grades harshly if you don’t follow all of his documentation requirements to the letter even if your code works fine!  So, it is a class of a lot of busy work, if that stuff is annoying to you, you might want to rethink taking this class.  Each day there is a list of videos to watch and then programs to write and once a week a quiz or two to take. You get 2 tries on quizzes and they have tricky answers and supposedly the tests are even more tricky and most kids fail.  You get only one attempt there.  There is extra credit each week available (but more work to add to your already heavy load) but you need it since the tests are designed for you to fail.  In addition to the programs, there are discussion boards you have to do each week.  It is a lot of work and if we had to do it again, we might have tried to just take Java at a college through dual enrollment rather than do this when the results will be the same.


Overall my review of NCVPS is not good – on one hand, you get flexibility to work when you want, however, they don’t seem to have well defined curriculum and the results show students are not successful with good AP grades or EOC grades.


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