Posts Tagged nacol
NACOL just released a report addressing the promising practices of online schools working with at-risk students. Based on a study of 5 online or blended learning schools, they came up with the following key lessons demonstrated by those successful schools:
Motivating students who have failed in the traditional classroom setting is a key to success for credit recovery programs. The flexible and self-paced nature of online courses can motivate; these attributes can also remove the social stigma of credit recovery. Online courses may be more engaging to some students than traditional face-to-face classes. In addition, programs that use online courses can address mobility issues of students who move regularly from one school in the district to another.
This is the hardest part of our job. We need to develop better methods of engaging students. Florida Virtual School states they pass 90% of their at-risk kids in credit recovery courses. Does that mean online schools should just design separate credit recovery courses in addition to mainline and advanced courses? There is no separation at our school and we pass half that amount.
Online learning is particularly well suited for students recovering credit because it allows for individualized instruction, both by the teacher and through the use of course management technology. Online curriculum must be rigorous to ensure that students are learning the material, and not simply moving through the course. Diagnostic testing that allows students to demonstrate mastery of the elements of a subject that they learned in their previous attempt to pass the course, and to move on to the parts of the course that they need to focus on, keeps students engaged.
I’ve long been a proponent of diagnostic testing but none of our courses currently offer this. The rigor of a course has to be enforced by the administration. Individualizing instruction (and assessments) is the role of the instructor but if your school employs instructors who are trying to teach traditionally online than this won’t happen at your school.
The self-paced aspect of online courses is particularly valuable to at-risk students, who may associate education with difficulties and stress, compounded by learning deadlines imposed by arbitrary calendars or school hours.
This is also one of the most difficult aspects. Often these students do not have basic organizational skills or the ability to evaluate course responsibilities and schedule accordingly.
Providing credit for work or community service allows students to be engaged in a valuable activity outside of school and to have this experience count towards graduation. It also
motivates students to complete the program.
Most online programs serving credit recovery and at-risk students—but not all—have a
significant face-to-face component. The blended approach is important because it provides
expanded student support and face-to-face contact. The online component—whether fully
online or blended—provides 21st century skills to a group of students who often have less
than average exposure to computers and technology.
We have kids come in once a week for four hours of face-to-face contact. Should we increase this to make it “significant?”
Programs that keep students from dropping out or attract students back into the school
system may pay for themselves—or at least defray costs—by capturing the state public
education dollars tied to those students. Online programs are particularly scalable and able
to expand more easily than programs based entirely on brick-and-mortar classrooms.
Success stories and anecdotes regarding the benefits and value of online learning for both
at-risk students and the schools serving them abound. The need exists for federal funding of
quantitative research in this area.
I teach online so its always on my mind, but things have been happening recently which led me to want to start writing about online teaching and learning. Normally I write pretty vague blogs that can apply to both traditional and distance and hybrid schools but want to focus on my specific model for a little while. Bare with me. Things that have me thinking, in no particular order:
1. I was asked to present at Virtual Schools Symposium about Shared Leadership in a discussion called “How to Start an Online School” then shared leadership seemed to stop at my school when summer began. Feeling a little torn about making that presentation now.
2. I just went through an online training program for Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium, CT’s new state online school. I was able to look inside some of the responsibilities their teachers have for developing curriculum (almost none) compared to our teacher’s responsibilities for developing curriculum (100 %). My hypothesis is that teachers who use pre-packaged software solutions can focus more on supplementing instruction, personalizing assessments, and communicating with students than those that have to spend a lot of time building online content. More hypothesizing to come.
3. I was just at NECC2008 and there were almost no relevant sessions about online learning. I attended one and it was terrible, antiquated, inapplicable to my situation or any online teacher’s situation who has taught for more than 5 days. There was nothing in any of the dozen or so E-learning sessions that I thought could benefit a hybrid high school teacher. I think I found a topic to propose to NECC for next year.
4. Clayton Christensen predicts half of all high school students will take online courses ten years from now. If that comes true, my career experience is going to be very relevant to the future of education.
5. A trusted colleague in my PLN asked me to talk to her principal about the challenges of online learning for credit recovery. Her school is thinking about offering online classes next year. Even though the challenges are so vast and so many, I still believe in online learning. That said, everyday I question the potential of online learning as a valuable option for at-risk kids. I’m spending my life trying to figure out a way to teach at-risk kids online, but am losing so far.
As online learning moves past the early adopter phase, the growth
of online programs focused on at-risk students or credit recovery has redefined how educational technology can be used to address the needs of all students, from advanced students in search of Advanced Placement or dual-credit courses, to at-risk students trying to find the right instructional mix to fit their learning styles.
The last half of that last sentence is especially relevant to our learning model. We need to find the right mix to meet these kids learning styles because we are failing nearly 50% of our students right now with another 20% dropping out. Anyone have any ideas for the right mix?
Those 5 things really have me thinking about online learning and interested in seeing where it goes in the near future. I also look forward to tackling these things in future writings, which I haven’t really done in a year of blogging. Wonder why not?