Frisco ISD expands online course catalog


Frisco ISD screenshot

In addition to credit recovery, The Frisco RAIL program now allows students to take extra courses in order to graduate earlier. Compared to a Texas Virtual School Network course, which costs up to $400, a student wanting to take extra classes must pay $225, although those recovering credits may take online courses without a fee.

Expanding beyond credit recovery, the Frisco ISD RAIL program offers a plethora of new courses with flexibility and personalization in mind for the 2019-20 school year, allowing students to either catch up or get ahead. 

“Online courses provide students flexibility,” FISD Director of Innovative Learning Tiffany Carey said via email. “Many students have busy schedules and may want to take additional courses beyond the eight class periods. RAIL allows students to take courses for enrichment, at their own pace, place and plan.”

As an online program, RAIL, or Reaching All Innovative Learners, is available on campus for students with any questions during the day, as well as holding evening office hours, and monthly weekend tutorials. 

“These courses are facilitated by FISD teachers,” Carey said via email. “The content teacher will email students a welcome letter, meet them during lunch and hold evening and weekend virtual office hours. RAIL is the 7-Eleven of learning without the constraints of a brick-and-mortar school.”

Despite the fact that the program is not a fully online school, it allows students to catch up or get ahead by taking learning into their own hands. 

Advantages are that students can open up their schedules, take classes that they want, work at their own pace and learn from the comforts of their own home, a coffee shop or wherever there is free wifi.”

— FISD Director of Innovative Learning Tiffany Carey

As director of the program, Carey has been on the forefront of the program’s recent revamp. 

“I have worked with online programming for eight years,” Carey said via email. “Online programs require many departments to work together.  As director, I get to work with counselors, administrators, curriculum and instruction, technology, communications, teachers, students and parents.  Last year, we developed a task force to make sure that everyone felt like they had a voice in designing our FISD program. My main job is to make sure that all stakeholders are heard and represented in the RAIL.” 

As a science instructor for the RAIL program, teacher Michael Voth aims to provide a parallel experience to an in-person classroom. 

“Learning online has the same objective as face-to-face learning,” Voth said via email. “To accomplish this, we still look to use research-based instructional strategies that can be carried out in an online environment. Even though the learning occurs online, we work to engage students and make the instruction enjoyable and interesting to students.” 

High school science classes include hands-on labs, and those are a feature with RAIL as well. 

“​Students are able to perform labs in a fully online course as long as the lab only requires common household materials and simple measuring devices,” Voth said via email. “Students can then submit their results, a lab report, and possibly even pictures or video of them performing the lab. In cases where the materials needed are not commonly accessible materials, virtual labs can be performed and data, results, and/or lab reports on the virtual lab can be submitted.” 

RAIL provides Voth with the ability to reach more students than found on a single campus as the program is district wide.  

​”Some of the advantages of teaching online are being able to reach students throughout the entire district, providing an opportunity for students to progress in their courses at varied paces, and using technology to engage students,” Voth said via email. “Other advantages are students being provided with continual, often immediate, feedback and teachers being provided with up to the minute data on students’ progress and understanding of learning objectives.” 

While RAIL instructors work the usual eight hours a day, Monday through Friday, Voth makes sure to stay adaptable in order to fit the needs of online students. 

“​Currently, RAIL teachers work regular employment hours,” Voth said via email. “The flexibility comes in being able to work with the students that need their content teacher at a particular time. Since our courses are facilitated online, we can schedule ourselves around student needs. We will also be offering evening and/or weekend online tutorials that will provide students with further instruction outside of the traditional school day.”