When deciding whether online learning is right for your district, many questions arise, from deciding on the best curriculum to how to properly onboard families. How to train staff and how success will be measured must also be thought through. This web seminar, originally broadcast on March 13, 2013, joined together online learning experts from across the country to discuss how they were able to successfully introduce online curriculum in their districts.
K12 has developed an integrated approach to online learning that knits together curriculum services and technology to provide the best possible optimized online learning experience for the student and the district. We have built curriculum specifically designed for the different types of learning needed, whether the student learns from home full-time or needs to take a single course for credit recovery.
I’m the Principal of a comprehensive full-time virtual charter school in Lawrence, Kansas. We have over 1,500 K12 students who are served remotely from their homes.
I’m with Bend-La Pine Schools in Bend, Oregon. Our program is eight years old, and we serve 1,100 K12 students with flexible, part-time, and full-time online options that can be used in any combination with brick-and-mortar schooling and/or homeschooling.
I am the Director of Virtual Education for VISNET. VISNET is a national educational consortium designed to provide its member schools with high quality, affordable, online resources, tools, and professional learning opportunities.
Lovett: What problems were you trying to solve by implementing online learning?
Wilson: In our state, we have a strong traditional homeschool population. We needed to address issues of flexibility and bullying in a brick-and-mortar setting. We had students who were struggling with the pacing and lack of individualization of instruction.
Lovett: Which students are you targeting and what are some of your planned outcomes?
Tyvand: This year, we’re marketing to homeschool families (about 700 in our district) and students who’ve left our district for other online programs (about 200). We contact those families directly to make them aware of our program. We’re hoping 30 to 50 percent of those families will be interested in enrolling in our program.
Keenan: We target all students to help our schools fulfill their missions of providing more of a customized and differentiated type of program. By bringing in students with varied needs, from credit recovery to the desire for unique electives, the schools have been able to extend their own instructional programs.
Lovett: How did you select the curriculum and technology for online learning in your district?
Wilson: We looked for somebody who had a research-based system with a proven track record, and a program that was very fluid and comprehensive. We needed something that was teacher- and student-friendly.
Keenan: We want instructional design based on the theories of prominent instructional experts. When we chose K12, we saw that their instructional design is based on all names that we read about and use in our professional development. We want courses that are effective in motivating students, while teaching key concepts and developing important skills. We want courses rich in multimedia.
Tyvand: What you should look for is a vendor with a curriculum that has a variety of topics, that adds to its course catalog depth each year. Most vendors have a few courses — English, Math, Science, maybe a couple of electives — and a lot of them don’t even have four years worth of each of those core content areas.
Lovett: How do you measure the quality of your program?
Tyvand: One of the major pieces that we look at is feedback from parents and students. To measure the quality of our program overall, we look at enrollment numbers and look for consistency between K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. We also look at how many families stay enrolled. You’re always going to lose people because of their own issues, whether they move or have a lifestyle change. But, overall, if your families stay with the program for a full semester to earn high school credits or stay for a full year at the K-8 level and finish it out, then you’ve got some clear satisfaction. If they’re really unhappy, they would leave.
Wilson: We look at cognitive and affective growth of the staff, students, and families. We examine the same success indicators that you would use to evaluate a brick-and-mortar school.
Lovett: How do you onboard your students and the families when they enroll?
Wilson: We have frequent face-to-face time with our families and students. We bring folks together on a regular basis to socialize and problem solve on content areas. We have to have that constant contact, constant interaction, and constant conversation. Prior to enrollment, we’ll have a minimum of two face-to-face meetings with a prospective student. We’ll meet with the family and discuss the program and expectations. These orientation sessions are designed not only to help the family understand how the program works but to also ensure that that human element is in place.
Tyvand: I meet with every family for about an hour. The parent has to attend, and I prefer the child attend too. During that meeting, we discuss all the reasons for their enrollment and their needs. Once we’ve had that meeting, throughout the year I make it clear that I am their single point of contact and that they can reach out to me for customization at any time.
Lovett: How do you select and train teachers, administrators, and mentors?
Keenan: We’ve done a lot of webinars; we’ve brought K12 onsite to do some training to help teachers learn how to be an online teacher. We offer a teaching academy every summer where it’s all about matching pedagogy of today to reflect technology integration.
Lovett: What about funding for online learning?
Tyvand: People often ask us how we fund our program. I just want to remind everyone that the money follows the student. Also, philosophically, if your district feels that it is its responsibility to serve the students that live in its area, you need to implement online learning. Let families who are the taxpayers, who are the clients, dictate what they want. And I’ve got to tell you, this is what they want as an option.
To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to: www.districtadministration.com/ws031313.