When students are handed their schedules for the year, they feel like they’re holding a verdict in their hands. The perceived stakes mean that a schedule has to be built to withstand not only all the logistical demands we throw at it--classroom availability, crossover teachers, early dismissals--but also the emotional weight of each student’s hopes and plans for the year. When those competing sets of priorities collide, Academic Leaders brace for impact.
Because of the emotions that are wrapped up in student schedules, it’s especially important for schools to solve these problems quickly and effectively. At One Schoolhouse, our partnerships provide the flexibility and range of courses individual students need without compromising a school’s purpose-built schedule. The key to that flexibility is asynchronous learning.
In the early days of crisis distance learning, asynchronous coursework unfairly earned a bad reputation for being unengaging and impersonal. The key to unpacking that reputation is the context of “crisis”: anything that’s built quickly and under stress isn’t going to meet the standard of intentional and expert design--which is exactly what students and families expect from independent schools.
That’s why expert and intentional design is the hallmark of One Schoolhouse’s student courses. We begin by building a faculty comprised of experienced independent school teachers who are experts in their fields. (94% of them hold advanced degrees!) We’ve learned that great classroom teachers need additional competencies and skills to become extraordinary online instructors, so we train our teachers in building online connections with students, effective online communication, and technological acumen.
Asynchronous work allows students to have a personalized experience that aligns to their learning preferences. One student can watch a video to learn a new concept, while another reads a selection from a textbook. And asynchronous assignments don’t have to be self-paced or solitary. Shared weekly due dates ensure that although students complete assignments at the time that works for them, they’re mastering the same content that their classmates are learning. As a result, students have regular opportunities for collaboration and conversation, like writing skits to practice vocabulary and grammar in language courses, or collecting data for a social psychology experiment.
When schools use online asynchronous courses strategically, they’re not limited by classroom space, staffing, or singleton sections. It becomes possible for a student to take two courses that meet at the same time, and financially sustainable for a school to offer an advanced math course for just three students. When academic leaders can start the year by finding positive solutions to scheduling problems, they’re starting off with a win.
One Schoolhouse can help solve your scheduling or staffing problems this year. Call us at 202.618.3637 or email email@example.com.
Classroom teachers instinctively understand the impact of a first impression. They greet students as they walk through the door and carefully plan the first days’ work to ensure a strong foundation for the learning to come. They know, too, that the space they teach in also communicates their values, from the way they arrange their classroom furniture to the posters they hang on the walls.
So when teachers become Academic Leaders, they know how important first interactions are to shaping their relationships with faculty, staff, students and families. At the same time, they have a much smaller range of direct interactions with stakeholders than classroom teachers do. To set the tone for the new year, Academic Leaders need to approach the start of school by acting with intention–one of our key Competencies for Academic Leaders.
Every summer we get phone calls from Academic Leaders stuck in staffing limbo. “I’ve been trying to hire for this position since March,” they say, “but we can’t find a candidate we feel confident about. Do you have room for…?” and then they ask us about six, or fourteen, or forty students, who need to enroll in courses like AP Calculus BC, or three different levels of Mandarin Chinese, or Anatomy and Kinesiology.
In situations like these, our first goal is to articulate the elements that create a successful online partnership between schools and supplemental programs. At One Schoolhouse, successful partnerships rely on clarity, communication, and shared understanding.
We know there are three things Academic Leaders can do from the start of our partnership that will set their students up for success.
Stand behind your decision
Online learning may not have been your first choice, and it’s okay to acknowledge that. However, once you’ve made the decision to move a course online, you need to communicate that it is your best choice, and your school is fully behind this partnership. If Academic Leaders use language like “regrettably,” “last resort” or “experiment” (and we’ve seen all of these!), they communicate that their school lacks faith in the partner. Instead, be sure to communicate that your online partner is trusted and expert. At One Schoolhouse, we provide schools with information like a college matriculation list, a list of our consortium schools, and information about our teachers. All of these help to convince students and families that we share their school’s commitments to creating challenging courses, hiring expert instructors, and engaging with students.
Open all your communication channels
When a school moves a course online, our first move is to urge the school to schedule an informational webinar for students and families. In the meeting, we explain what online learning looks like when it’s purpose-built. We walk students and families through our weekly learning cadence and explain course competencies and objectives. We also answer their questions about online learning, how we’ll work together with their school, and how we support students if they run into challenges. Over time, we’ve noticed that students whose schools do webinars tend to do better than students from schools who decline our offer.
Stay in touch with our Student Success Team
Acclimating to an online course is a bit different from settling into a traditional class. Students have a lot of experience in physical classrooms. They’ve worked with different teachers and a wide range of resources. When they run into a challenge, they know there’s another way to do things. Online, however, when students hit a snag, they tend to assume that the problem is not specific to an assignment or topic, but instead inherent to online learning, and they follow that reasoning to the conclusion of “I can’t learn online.” They’re wrong! Everybody can learn online… they just need to learn a few new strategies. Our Student Success team–Delinda Hyde and Charnelle Lyles–are experts in working with students and schools. If students are struggling or frustrated, contact the Student Success team right away. We can provide you and your students with information and strategies that can support progress and boost performance.
Want to know more about enrolling students in One Schoolhouse courses? Contact our office at 202-618-3637 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a part of our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, we recognize observances and holidays that center the voices and experiences of historically excluded peoples in the United States. We aim to lift up the words of others who share our commitment to learning, and amplify voices from the disability community.
Learn about the history of Disability Pride Month:
Disability Pride Month marks the anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990. This timeline from the National Center for Learning Disabilities marks the key events that predate its passage and mark its evolution.
Recognize Disability Pride Month in Your School and Community:
Explore lesson plans about ability, history, equity, and inclusion from Disability Equality in Education, a “cross-disability organization led by disabled people who are experts in the fields of inclusive disability education and advocacy.”
Listen to the Voices of People With Disabilities:
Journalist Cathy Reay writes, “Even with the effort some of us put into telling the world about it, year on year Disability Pride Month tends to pass by largely unnoticed by those outside our community… But when the global disabled community is made up of more than one billion people, why wouldn’t people take it seriously? And why aren't more people talking about it?”
Things get interesting, however, when we start to move down the list of additional accommodations. That’s because our course design standards were built with attention to guidelines from Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL guidelines are designed to help educators “change the design of the environment rather than to change the learner. When environments are intentionally designed to reduce barriers, all learners can engage in rigorous, meaningful learning.” At One Schoolhouse, we believe that online learning should be designed to be accessible to all, and that all learners benefit from intentional structure and increased choice. As a result, our course design standards incorporate many of the most frequently used accommodations in traditional classrooms.
For example, consider the accommodation of alternative instruction formats. A student who has difficulty processing auditory information may need outlines or notes provided in a typical classroom. In a One Schoolhouse course, they can choose a pathway that uses text. At its most traditional, that could mean a textbook reading. Another option might include a recorded slide deck that integrates the teacher’s spoken words with an outline on the screen. A student who finds visuals especially helpful might select a video pathway.
Online learning can be a game-changer for students who have difficulty managing the physical environment of a traditional classroom. Preferential seating, for example, simply doesn’t exist in the online space–every student has a front-row seat. For students who struggle to manage attention and avoid distraction, online learning offers the opportunity to manage the environment by selecting their own workspace. (What about students for whom the device itself is the distraction? There are a host of apps to help with both Mac and Chrome operating systems.) Students who need to take breaks on campus often find themselves forced to choose between taking the break they need and missing essential classroom time. Not so in an asynchronous course, which allows students to manage their time in the way that works best for them.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)