PRIVATE HELL

Students in North Carolina can get credit for online gym class this fall

Anyone who has ever failed the rope-climb test or been hit in the head in forced volleyball will identify with the thought, “Do I have to go to gym class?” As of this fall, the answer to that question will be, “Not if you take classes with the North Carolina Virtual Public School.”

The school, which offers online supplemental courses to middle and high school students in North Carolina, announced it will provide online physical education classes starting this fall. In the pilot program, offered in Macon and New Hanover counties, students will watch videos created by instructors performing physical activities or sports, then practice and get graded through uploaded video recordings.

While this is fabulous news for students who despise sweaty mats and relay races, the virtual set-up means the more appealing aspects of team sports will be lost, too. “Obviously we’re not working in real time and students aren’t working face to face,” says Mia Murphy, North Carolina Virtual Public School’s director of outreach and support. “In our courses, there’s truly a focus on learning a particular skill. But in terms of pick-up basketball, in virtual learning, we can’t do that type of activity.”

Virtual exercise isn’t new—think of Wii Sports, which according to Nintendo has sold 82.69 million games as of March 31. But developers are finding new ways to deliver physical activity regimens digitally. A project led by Romanian company MIRA Rehab, for instance, will provide virtual physical therapy using a Microsoft Kinect; it will be available for patients later this year.

The results of the North Carolina gym class pilot won’t come in until spring, when the school may decide to offer online physical education statewide. Until then, there’s nowhere to hide.

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