When we talked about starting an independent school online, our colleagues at our schools looked at us as if we were crazy. In those days, people in our communities assumed that online learning was everything our schools were not: rote, lonely, boring, easy. When we looked online, we saw the potential for online learning to be so much more: connected, challenging, engaging.
The truth is, in 2009, most online courses were focused on content and rote learning, as you might be able to see from this screenshot from a college course in the same year. But, in 2009, more and more social media tools (what we used to call “web 2.0” tools) were coming online. The internet became about connection, rather than giving knowledge. And, the tools for connection were becoming affordable in a way that they never were before.
This new way of using the internet allowed for a new way to teach online. So, we enlisted the help of our friends at the Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls, and their exceptional leader, Lisa Damour. The Center scoured research available to create a pedagogical approach for teaching and learning online that was relational, developing four pillars for girls’ learning online:
Thus, connection, collaboration, creativity, and application became the cornerstone of our work with students online, giving us the basis for challenging the assumption that learning online could not be exceptional and relational.
And now, 10 year later, what do we know about at our courses? Well, 97% of our students say that their One Schoolhouse courses are as challenging or more challenging than their face-to-face classes, 82% report gaining greater academic maturity, 77% report being inspired to be creative, and 85% report seeing direct ties between classroom learning and real-world application.
We make progress on each of these fronts every year, continuously going back to the research to update our practice, staying true to our roots of being research driven in order to create something beyond expectation. I’ll write about that part of the journey next month - Design Backwards, Then Measure.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)