Students across Japan are attending a virtual high school where nearly every facet of learning is done online.

In April, some students from its first cohort attended their commencement ceremony through virtual reality, while their headmaster spoke hundreds of kilometers away. Later, they got a 360 degree augmented reality tour of the campus.

“It’s a new proposal to [challenge] the conventional high school education system,” N High School’s founding principal Hirokazu Okuhira told the Japan Times.

Digital classrooms

Lessons are streamed to students via a dedicated smartphone app. Students watch them when convenient and are required to take tests after each lesson. They submit reports and test results online by sending photos of their work to teachers. Students are required to attend only five classroom days a year to comply with education ministry requirements.

Students participate in lessons through a comment box. There is a separate online platform for students to interact directly with their peers.

“Rather than teaching what they know, a teacher’s role today should be to act as a coordinator who instructs students on how to search websites and compile information into something they can express by themselves,” Okuhira says.

Each student is assigned a teacher, who advises on studying and career, and is available for consultations via phone and email. They can also have face-to-face sessions with teachers at the main campus in Okinawa, or satellite campuses in Tokyo and Osaka.

Students who complete the three-year programme and get the required number of credits are awarded a high school diploma.

Apart from government-mandated courses, the school offers elective training in other skills which students would require in their jobs, including coding, writing and animation. It also offers on-site training in farming, fishing and traditional crafts.

Age no bar

N High School is financed by Kadokawa Dwango Corp – a holding company of video-sharing website Nico Nico Douga and publisher Kadokawa Corp. Annual tuition fees start at about 100,000 yen ($972), according to the Nikkei Asian Review.

The school accepts anyone who has not completed their high school, according to the paper. It has no age limit – which means that students could range from secondary school graduates to middle-aged people who want to complete their education. The high school’s first batch enrolled 1,482 students.

The school is also trying to appeal to more traditional parents who may not buy into the concept. It has set up a “cram school” to prepare students for university entrance exams outside of usual teaching hours.

The school has partnered with other publishers to provide training material. Online videos are produced by a large textbook publisher, Tokyo Shoseki. It is also working with Chukei Publishing to create learning materials. It has tied up with vocational school operator, Vantan, to provide specialised training classes.

Image by Kadokawa Dwango Corp