Starting in spring 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 AP Calculus BC, or three different levels of Mandarin Chinese, or Anatomy and Physiology.
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’ve observed that post-pandemic, schools can be reluctant to offer a course online, because students and families conflate all types of learning online. When a school says “online course,” students think “pandemic crisis distance learning.” It’s understandable that few people want to revisit that experience!
When schools make the decision to move a course online at the start of the school year, they inadvertently play into the narrative that online learning is a crisis solution. Students and families interpret this timing to mean that online learning is the school’s last-ditch effort; as a result, they can approach the situation with mistrust and resistance.
In contrast, when schools decide in the spring to offer an online course rather than on-campus instruction, they create a very different narrative. Online learning is framed as a way to preserve and expand course offerings. Schools have the opportunity to explain that purpose-built online learning is very different from what students experienced in Spring 2020. Programs like One Schoolhouse draw on years of experience in online learning and train teachers based on research and best practices.
So how can you get students and families past a gut reaction? It takes communication and demonstrated value–and both of those things take time. We begin communicating with students and families over the summer, sending resources like our handbook and resource list, parent orientation videos, and contact information, both at One Schoolhouse and at their school. We let students know when to expect their login information, and how we’ll get them ready for learning online in the first week of the course. We tell students and families what to expect, and then we deliver on those expectations.
It’s also essential to 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 prepare students for a challenging and engaging course, and provide the scaffolding to build autonomy and organizational skills.
When students and families have more time to communicate and build trust in online providers, students tend to acclimate to online learning and find success more quickly. As a result, they see supplemental online learning as enhancing their school experience, rather than detracting from it–and that builds their confidence in their Academic Leaders and their school.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)