Back in 2009, a group of girls’ schools got together to create the first online independent school, the Online School for Girls. The purpose was to connect schools and extend opportunities for students, in a way that was based the values, ethos, challenge, and feel of independent schools — with particular focus on relationships between students and teachers, and students with each other. The goal was to create an online school that wasn’t opposed to the tenets of independent school education, but instead brought those tenets online.
Along the way, the consortium recognized that online education could also be a great extender of opportunities for faculty, and thus the school created online professional development courses. Later on co-ed schools and boys’ schools asked for similar opportunities. Eventually, the name “Online School for Girls” was not sufficiently encompassing of all of the work of the school. To capture the breadth of the work, the consortium renamed the school: One Schoolhouse.
What started as an idea with four schools in 2009 quickly spread to twelve schools by the end of that year. In the first year, 50 students enrolled in semester courses, and just a handful of faculty tried to learn online. Ten years later, the network has impressively expanded. In the last year, 664 schools around the world enrolled students in more than 1800 semesters of classes, and 1000 educators in professional development programs.
The idea has been successful. This year, as a part of our 10th Anniversary celebration, we’d like to share with you the secret to that success. So, over the course of this year, we’ll offer 10 insights from 10 years in online independent education. In the process, we’ll offer examples from each insight, ideas on how these insights might hold value for your school, and a glimpse at what this means for the future of independent schools and their work online. Here’s the insights. Look for an in-depth look into the first insight in February.
Don't Let the Unknown Stop You From Acting
Use Research to Challenge Assumptions
Design Backwards, Then Measure
Every Student Learns Differently
Faculty Can Learn Online, Too
Online Learning Supports Financial Sustainability
Learning Online Solves Unique Challenges
Every Student Can Learn Online
Simple Design and Technology Improves Learning
Choice Increases Student Engagement
The Independent Curriculum Group make no bones about our concern for the well-being and mental health of students, as nearly every day brings us a worrisome story or anecdote about student stress. Much of this appears to be very much a function of anxiety around the complex constellation of academic and social pressures felt by students working to succeed in the educational system we have created. We wonder about it, and what we as educators might do to make schools happier places for children and adults. Perhaps we’re just in alarmist mode, generalizing from specifics, but each time we ask a school person about students in crisis at their school, we get an affirmative response
So we present to you, readers, some difficult, discomfiting questions. You are invited to take these as either rhetorical or substantive (or both), and to frame your responses—not to us, but to yourselves—but in the context of your learning community accordingly.
All learning happens in a context, and in the established world of pre-college education we have planted our collective flag atop the mountain of missions and values (think: the accrediting process). We set out with good hearts to create institutions of teaching and learning built around these at least purportedly idiosyncratic, “mission driven” elements:
Try putting on your skeptic’s (or hardcore realist’s) glasses and taking a look at the full context of learning at your school. It might be well to reserve some time for deep reflection as you ponder these related and very germane issues:
There are of course a host of corollary and shadow (as in, “Why not?”) questions accompanying each of those asked here, but we’ll stop for now.
If you are inclined to explore these questions more deeply, we would point you to these terrific and relevant resources:
This material comes from an early 1999 poll of teachers in New England. It's Interesting to muse on what has come true and what hasn't (yet?).
Where were you in 1999, and what were your hopes and fears for education technology?
Were you right or wrong?
Fears Relating to the Future of Technology in Education:
Fears relating to teacher life
Hopes relating to the future of technology in education:
Hopes relating to teacher life
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)