Ask any educator that works with online learning, and they are likely to say that it comes with many challenges. MySchool@Kent in Grand Rapids is an online and blended learning school that is taking measures to tackle those challenges in Kent County. Here’s some of how they do it:
Meet students where they are. Each student goes through an intake process that builds a student profile, including why they are choosing an online path, and details about learning history and preferences. They are provided with laptops and wifi if needed, so access to coursework and instructors is not an issue. There are multiple locations where students can receive face-to-face support as well, which leads into point #2.
Regular, direct, and focused support. Students are required to attend on-site at least two days a week and four hours total. This provides a face-to-face contact and helps build personal relationship between students and instructors. Every student is assigned a coach with whom they set personal goals each week, and they work together to remove any barriers that may arise. When off-site, students can pose questions and get timely responses via email, phone, or video chat.
Foster connections at all levels. As an ISD-based school, enrollments come from districts and communities throughout the county. There is a student leadership team that organizes activities, but students are also still connected to their sending schools and can participate in extracurricular activities there. Progress reports are sent weekly to the schools and guardians, and MySchool also works with different organizations to identify work-based opportunities, additional counseling, and truancy support.
With this structure in place, the pervasive challenges of online and blended learning are not as daunting, and this program is finding ways to help non-traditional students find success. See their website for more information.
Craig Steenstra (@csteenst): Craig is an Educational Technology Consultant at Kent ISD in Grand Rapids and the MACUL SIG OBL director. He can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @csteenst.