Online education is nothing new. For years, students have been able to take courses from home in the form of online video tutorials and education programs such as Blackboard. Japan is taking things to another level, however, with the creation of a virtual high school experience, which requires students to create anime-style avatars that they control within a virtual high school campus, allowing them to travel around and mingle with other students MMORPG style.
Located in Chiba City, Meisei High School, which has a physical campus where students attend lessons, boasts a 98.1-percent graduation rate. While doing a great job educating in the traditional manner, the school is also launching the groundbreaking online virtual high school, called Meisei Cyber Gakushukoku, or Meisei Cyber Learning Country.
The school’s lectures are presented in the form of 20-minute videos featuring Meisei Cyber Gakushukoku instructors, which students can access from their PC, smartphone, or tablet. The instructors and pupils also meet face-to-face at least four times a year for counseling, and instructors are also available for in-person talks to discuss study or personal problems their pupils are experiencing. The students can also opt to conduct these meetings by email, fax, or telephone, offering an entirely virtual experience.
Where Meisei Cyber Gakushukoku really sets itself apart in online education is the creation of an interactive, virtual campus, complete with a schoolhouse, athletic field, and even a private beach!
But what good is a school with no students? That’s why upon enrolling in Meisei Cyber Gakushukoku, students create an anime-style avatar, picking from over 200 hairstyles, clothing items, and accessories. The avatar’s appearance can also be changed at will, letting students pick a fresh outfit each day. Even more game-like, these personalization options aren’t free. In order to acquire new items, students have to spend MS points, which they acquire by attending classes and completing mini tests, which are sent to their avatar’s in-system home. Yes, student’s also create their own home to “live” in when they aren’t attending class!
When students aren’t in the classroom, they can also fish, grow vegetables, play on the beach, and interact with their schoolmates’ avatars, creating a far more interactive experience than one would usually get with an online education.
Meisei Cyber Gakushukoku reports that among teens enrolled in correspondence programs, many of them still have a desire to feel connected to their peers and teachers. By creating a virtual space where they can be linked to other students and instructors, the school hopes that its system will come to represent a new beginning for online schools.
Thanks to financial support from Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports Science and Technology, plus discounted rates in commemoration of the program’s first year, tuition for some Meisei Cyber Gakushukoku students can be as low as zero yen for the first 12 months. The school is accepting requests for trial enrollment orientations, the application for which can be found here, between now and March 10. If you’re not ready to take the plunge (or if you’ve already got your diploma), you can check out a video introduction to the school, plus a sample of one of its English classes. The school year starts April 1.
Is this the future of education in the digital age?
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