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This April 11th, a group of college-bound students will gather in preparation for the SAT/ACTs. Over eight weeks under the guidance of locally acclaimed teachers, they will fortify their college readiness. They will learn proven test-taking strategies. They will practice reading comprehension and key grammar concepts. But, they will not step foot inside a classroom.
At least, not in the conventional sense. Instead, the intensive course will be taken virtually. SATWorx is an online-based college test preparation course designed and administered by local educators. The digital format is anchored by eight weekly sessions, with a syllabus intentionally aligned with our local school districts’ scheduled administrations of the SAT, ACT, and PSAT. The non-traditional course structure enables students to circumvent many restrictive impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has put on their academic path. It is just one component of ScholarWorx, a Virtual Learning center built on the mission of transcending these barriers.
ScholarWorx was created to virtually support learning and camaraderie through small group classes, target tutoring, cross-curricular clubs, and educational experiences– in the Sarasota area and beyond. ScholarWorx operates on a completely private, virtual campus- and is the only K-12 educational service of its kind. Desirée Schell founded the company in November of last year after witnessing the detrimental gap in educational accessibility become exponentially widened by the pandemic.
Schell recently retired from a lengthy career teaching English at a Gifted institution in Sarasota County. She is just one of many local educators that made a choice to leave traditional teaching behind this year by way of early retirement or leaves of absence. Desirée created ScholarWorx in an attempt to fill that void.
“As one of these teachers, I was troubled by the wealth of knowledge that had just exited our school system,” she said in a recent press release. “While teachers left for safety reasons, we still wanted to assist our educational community during such a critical time. Fueled by the global pandemic upending students, families, and teachers’ lives, ScholarWorx was born.”
It did not take long for Schell to assemble a diverse team of prolific educators, community partners, and newly a minority partner-Karen Cangero all unified by their passion for education. Together, ScholarWorx offers teachers, schools, and organizations a ground-breaking, safe, virtual campus that bridges the growing gap of educational accessibility.
Designed to replicate a campus-like feel, ScholarWorx does a great job of embodying that mission from the start. The virtual world is set on an island, which students can navigate using their personalized Avatar. The site lays out each module in an interactive, 3D map of classrooms, meeting spaces, and live web boards. Students can verbally speak with their classmates and instructors, over a system that uses proximity listening. Blue circles surround privacy areas throughout the campus, indicating spaces where conversations are only audible to those within.
Throughout the island, students can access a variety of resources and course programs like Virtual Scholars, Learning Pods, and Curriculum Clubs. A 4 story building built along the shoreline provides a perfect location for interactive Oceanology lessons. In total there are 45 rooms that can be used to integrate all types of educational approaches –from STEM activities to 3D VR Labs.
ScholarWorx recently integrated 550 Virtual Reality Lab experiences, many of them built to align with SAT standards. The island also has indoor and outdoor auditoriums for everything from conferences to performances.
“With a virtual venue, there are no bad seats in the house,” says Schell.
Outdoors, students can play a game of soccer, or take a speed boat ride from the beach. They can put the fun back into learning by partnering with peers of similar interests for mind-stimulating games and challenges.
For students that benefit from a more personalized approach, ScholarWorx offers targeted One-on-One Tutoring, providing access to teachers specializing in topics ranging from art to zoology.
“There is a wealth of knowledge out there on the internet, but what is lacking is the guidance on how to access it and how to apply it,” Schell says. “Our teachers have this experience– the life experiences they have accumulated through years of careers in many diverse fields, and their experience in relating that wisdom to young minds as educators.”
From this idea, Schell and Cangero started to focus on the student perspective by identifying what else is missing within the so-called ‘new normal’ learning format. When the pandemic hit, school as we knew it was transformed abruptly. Programs were adapted hastily in a rushed attempt to minimize the disruption to the nearly-ending school year. An encompassing view of how individual students learn was not a priority- and some crucial aspects were not even considered.
With Schell’s and Cangero’s backgrounds teaching gifted students in Sarasota County, it wasn’t hard for them to see that academically exceptional learners needed more than an online conference call setting to stay engaged. She knew that a better solution was required to take into account the diverse educational and emotional needs students require to succeed. She hopes that ScholarWorx can become a community pillar for endless academic growth.
“We strive to be the premier virtual educational resource center by keeping the joy of learning for our students, as our North Star,” Schell explains. “Beyond being a virtual learning center, ScholarWorx Campus affords students the joy of learning coupled with meaningful social interactions, which is so crucial to continued development while their normal routine is completely uprooted,” said Schell. “The ScholarWorx campus aims to accommodate all of these needs, providing limitless academic opportunities while minimizing the isolation and exhaustion that comes with pandemic-style learning.”
Students and teachers alike are invited to explore the world of ScholarWorx, through a Virtual Open House at https://www.scholarworx.com/open-house. To join the SATworx Prep Course, which begins April 11th, visit https://www.scholarworx.com/registration. Stay up to date with ScholarWorx’s journey by following them on Facebook and check out their fundraiser campaign to be a part of this monumental disruptor in the education industry!