MUSKOKA - Though they may never meet in person, together a class of virtual learning students produces an online radio station that can be heard around the world.
Radio VLC is a student-run online radio station providing entertaining content 24/7 to anyone with an Internet connection. It also provides valuable experience to the students involved.
(Screen shot at radiovlc.com)
Twenty Grade 10 students at their homes throughout Trillium Lakelands District School Board and beyond, including Hamilton, Ottawa and London, create podcast interviews, ads, apply for music licences, search out free content and set up schedules to keep Radio VLC streaming 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Taught by John Graham, the communication-technology class is part of TLDSB’s Virtual Learning Centre, an online secondary school that attracts students from throughout Ontario and sometimes even further afield.
Attracting a large number of home-schooled children, the online courses also benefit students with health issues or those traveling abroad, who can receive an Ontario secondary school education from anywhere in the world. The centre began in 1997 and, with teachers spread throughout the board, has grown to provide a complete high school education.
It was the students who brought forward the idea for the online radio station, said Graham. The com-tech course was first offered last year and covers design and creating from a media perspective, he explained. It has been popular with students, covering a course curriculum that includes graphic design, animation, TV and video, and audio and radio production.
“The students mentioned to me ‘wouldn’t it be neat if we could actually operate our own radio station and put to use some of this stuff we are doing?’” he explained.
Graham applied and received funding through TLDSB’s Program Enhancement Fund. Since 2002, $160,000 has been earmarked in the budget to encourage innovative ideas that trustees believe will support the board’s ultimate goal: improving student achievement.
“I got $1,500,” said Graham, who was grateful for the trustee’s support. “We’re operating bare bones here, but it’s enough to get us started and it’s enough to get us through the entire year.”
Radio VLC has been online for two weeks now, streamed through its website at radiovlc.com, where you can listen to it through an Internet browser or through a media player, such as Itunes or Windows media, and on mobile devices, including tablets and Iphones. The rotating schedule is available on the website and includes classical music, Christmas jazz, student podcasts, top-40 chart, interviews, and an hour of music from an up-and-coming Canadian artist. This month the segment features Jamie Flegg of Oakville.
“We wanted to make this a station that students actually wanted to listen to,” said Graham. “That was our ultimate goal, but if we pick up people along the way who like what we’re doing, like top-40 music and want to listen during that timeframe, that’s our goal as well.”
Currently the content is all pre-programmed, but the next step is to start broadcasting live content, which Graham hopes will happen in January.
Radio VLC is also currently seeking out interested advertisers to work with students to create ads for the station, from start to finish, at no charge to businesses. The ads will then be played on Radio VLC, again for free.
“We want to use it as a learning tool for students,” explained Graham. “At the end of the day, we’re non-profit so we can’t charge for that. But we’re always willing to take donations,” he added.
Though in operation for just two weeks, Radio VLC has already provided students with real life learning that is not only a more genuine experience, but also one that keeps the students more engaged and connected as a school.
“It’s really given the students a feel for what radio and broadcasting is all about,” said Graham. “So instead of just creating audio and hypothetical radio ads, they’re now creating stuff that’s real, it’s authentic, it’s actually being delivered on the radio… and as far as I’m concerned that’s the best way to learn.”
Listen to Radio VLC through the website at radiovlc.com and follow along on Twitter @RadioVLC for up-to-date scheduling.