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Kadokawa Dwango to launch online high school for innovative minds

TOKYO -- Amid the growing shift toward digitization, publishers of educational materials have sometimes struggled to engage with the millennial generation -- most of whom have never so much as switched on a desktop PC. 

     Many have made admirable efforts to produce smartphone- and tablet-based content that appeals to today's IT-literate teenagers, and some can even compete for their attention with the likes of YouTube.

     Now one Japanese company has gone one step further. In April, Tokyo-based publishing and video-sharing website operator Kadokawa Dwango is set to launch an entire high school online, aimed at nurturing tech-savvy, creative students.

     The company, created through the merger of publisher Kadokawa and video-streaming service provider Dwango in October 2014, aims to capitalize on its group companies' wide-ranging strengths to offer a modern and unique high school experience.

     The outline of the new high school was unveiled on Tuesday. Virtually every aspect of school life will be conducted online -- from classes to extracurricular activities to peer-to-peer interaction -- via its smartphone application. High school diplomas will be awarded to students completing the required number of classes and earning enough credits.

     The company aims to draw on the combined know-how gained through the merger to provide a specialized education environment that nurtures talented people, such as the computer programmers of tomorrow.

     "The Internet has become an integral part of life for young people," said President Nobuo Kawakami. He envisions a new type of distance-learning high school where students will do almost everything online, from studying to making friends.

     Classes at N High School, as it has been called, will be streamed via a dedicated smartphone app and students will participate through a comment box, in much the same way as people currently use the company's niconico video-sharing site. Students will submit test results and coursework by sending in photos of their work. They will also be provided with an online platform through which they can interact with their classmates via their smartphones.

     According to the company, annual tuition fees will start at about 100,000 yen ($896). The school will accept anyone who has yet to complete a high school diploma and will have no upper-age limit. More than 1,000 students are expected to enroll when the school opens its virtual doors on April 6, when an entrance ceremony will be held online. Prospective students include everyone from transfer students to full-time homemakers.

     Unlike conventional high schools, N High School is designed to provide "out-of-the-box" high school education though which it aims to foster uniquely talented students.

     In addition, the company will create an "N cram school" system in which students will be able to prepare for exams outside of normal teaching hours. The service will be offered by an affiliated cram school, with courses tailored to the University of Tokyo's entrance examination and cost an additional 720,000 yen a year.

     The high school itself will offer an IT-focused curriculum, including app-development and other programming-related subjects. The intention is to produce creative and innovative graduates who can make a difference when they enter the workplace.

     "We need to deliver results as soon as we can, and that's what matters. We hope to nurture students who can work as intern programmers at Line and Dwango one year later," said Kawakami.

     The high school project will put to the test Kadokawa Dwango's synergies after the merger a year and a half ago.

     Chukei Publishing, a group firm specializing in business and study-aid books, is responsible for creating learning materials for the school while Vantan, a vocational school operator acquired shortly after the merger, will provide specialized training classes.

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