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Depew students offered online bioethics class

Depew educators are teaming up with Erie 1 BOCES to offer students a new science course that will be taught completely online.

Bioethics will be available as a half-credit science elective at no cost to the district for five students, according to high school chemistry teacher Robert Parry, who also will teach the course. He proposed participation in the class last week to the Depew School District Board of Education, which unanimously approved the measure.

The district took advantage of the opportunity when the Board of Cooperative Educational Services offered the option three months ago through the state’s Distance Learning Consortium.

Bioethics, which will begin in the fall, was chosen because Depew currently doesn’t teach the topic. The district would be the first outside of Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties to offer the subject, Parry said.

Areas covered within the course will include biomedical, genetics and research methods, among others, and students will study the pros and cons of each topic while keeping in mind the facts, ethical considerations and those who could be affected. The course will be operated through BOCES’ Internet learning platform called “Moodle,” and grading will be based on each student’s online participation, research and a final paper.

Parry, who has been with the district for eight years, stressed the advantages of online schooling, including allowing students to learn at their own pace, replay lessons, discuss topics freely and remain updated on assignments.

“It’s almost in a way like Facebook where we’re responding to each other,” he said.

High School Principal Carol Townsend commended Parry for taking the initiative on the project, noting that it will help better prepare students for college, where more courses are being offered over the Internet.

“I think we’re ahead of the game, which is great,” she said.

Enrollment prerequisites include Living Environment and having Internet access at home, and registration will be on a first-come, first-served basis. BOCES offered five of the available 20 spots to Depew at no cost because of Parry’s involvement in organizing and teaching the course, according to Candace Reimer, BOCES director of communication services. Other districts across the state that are members of the Distance Learning Consortium will be able to register students for the remaining 15 spots at a cost of $325 per student, she said. If more than five Depew students are interested in the class, the district would have to pay for the additional spots, Reimer added.

Course registration begins in May, and Reimer encouraged students and parents who are interested to contact their school principals. District leaders looking to register students can call BOCES at 821-7000.

Parry said that BOCES is picking up the tab for his instruction, which will be outside of his contractual obligations with Depew, and that students will be completing the course outside of the regular school day.

“They’re going to have to want to do it,” he said, adding that Internet-based lessons could have the power to motivate students by meeting them where they spend much of their time anyway.