How do we know that our academic program is any good? In a normal year, this isn’t a terribly difficult question to answer. But, this year, with at least some portion of the school year online, we’re operating in uncharted territory. My colleague Liz Katz likes to say, “In the online world we have different data than is available on campus.” She’s right. So, in this hybrid world, what is helpful to observe and know, in addition to whatever we may be lucky enough to observe on campus?
1) Listen to the kids! As academic leaders and educators, you have a sense of how students are perceiving their online experiences, but you’ll want to make sure that your assumptions match the students’ lived experience. At One Schoolhouse, we survey students five times a year, using the same questions each time and collecting that data centrally (rather than having teachers “own” the data). This lets us set baselines, so we can measure growth over time (school-wide and on a departmental and teacher basis). We ask students about mission-aligned competencies--things like real-world application, change in worldview, and academic maturity. If the data isn’t trending in the right direction, you’ll know it’s time to ask follow-up questions and make sure that teachers have the support and coaching that they need.
2) Spend some time in the LMS. For better or for worse, online learning is far more transparent than on campus classes. This allows academic leaders to take a deep dive into a course’s online presence. Design and curation are essential elements of top-notch online learning experiences, so they need to be included in your evaluation process. Make sure that: 1) courses are easy to navigate; 2) resources are available and accessible; and 3) students have a clear sense of how the assignments and assessments tie to course competencies and outcomes. For synchronous work, it’s possible to observe a course in real-time, but that practice tends to disrupt the flow of the class. Ask teachers to record a live session so that you can provide evaluation and feedback.
3) Use rubrics to ensure consistency and to create shared understandings of expectations. Creating a rubric for evaluation allows you to identify your priorities for online coursework and sets clear expectations for teachers. In the classroom, lesson design and delivery are almost identical, but in the online space, they’re two very different skills. At One Schoolhouse, we’ve developed a list of standards for both course design and instruction at One Schoolhouse that help us ensure that every course we offer meets expectations and aligns with our mission. To help the independent school community prepare for this school year, we published course standards and teaching competencies for hybrid learning that being used at hundreds of schools.
Want to dive deeper into assessing and adjusting your school's hybrid program?
Assessing and Adjusting Your School's Hybrid Learning: Fidelity to Implementation: This school year is continuing to present unique challenges. Now is the time Academic Leaders should be assessing and adjusting their school's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This course will help you identify key markers of success, establish data-gathering procedures and create communication plans for your hybrid program going forward. Course dates: October 26 - November 1, 2020
Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)