High School in Pajamas: Inside Insight

Some like Weil of the American Federation of Teachers stress caution, pointing to the need for students to communicate about high school itself.

"Everybody talks about their favorite teachers and those kinds of things can't be replicated online," Weil said. "Educationally, you can hit some of the academics, but I'm not convinced it can replace a teacher in a classroom."

Insight said it offers students the opportunity to organize clubs inside the school's password-protected infrastructure. Students can chat with each other on discussion threads as well. Teachers hold virtual classroom sessions three times a week, and academic tutoring support is available to students 24/7. The school also holds traveling PTA meetings in each state, as well as proms and graduation ceremonies.

The Teachers

Educators at Insight, which is owned by the University of Phoenix, say there are many perks to online teaching.

"It's been a dream come true," said Racquel Hernandez, a math teacher at Insight's Washington and California schools.

Hernandez spent 17 years as a public school teacher before entering the world of online education. Teaching online allows her to spend time with her daughter and still work with students.

"I still get that professional stimulation as a teacher plus the satisfaction of being a full-time mom," she said.

A teacher working full time at an Insight school earns about the average of the salary scale for teachers in their respective states. Plus, Insight says it offers a variety of benefits to its staff.

Unlike most public school teachers, however, those who work for Insight aren't unionized, and Weil of the teachers' union has a problem with that.

"All teachers should be represented and have their voice heard." he said. "They are the most important part of the school structure."

A Growing Movement

Insight's Oelrich said the school is about to start an aggressive campaign to open in several other states. He said Insight is scrambling to keep up with demand.

"Schools are embracing online learning and will continue to embrace online learning," he said. "We're just at the very beginning of meeting a tremendous need out there that isn't being served."

Insight strives to accept and enroll as many students as possible, but operational constraints sometimes limit the number that can be admitted.

Insight's Washington school received more than 3,000 applications last year. Admissions Consultants' Mural said lots of schools are moving toward online-based programs.

Math teacher Hernandez appreciates the growth.

"Technology has slowed the pace of life down for these students," Hernandez said. "I have parents saying 'thank you for getting these kids back home.'"

As for Nichole, after she she finishes her course work at Insight, she intends to earn a cosmetology degree. Then, with some experience under her belt, Nichole aspires to work in cosmetic advertising.

"I want to learn the field first," she said, "and then take over."

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