There are many vendors in the digital content market that sale online secondary semester-based courses, which they will all claim are aligned to every state and national standard. Before making a purchase, start with confirming they meet your specific state standards. Then ponder how best to deploy the courseware. There is no one right solution, but many ways courseware can be utilized. Here are ten different deployment models to consider. These different models demonstrate how to reach more students with a single product.
- Traditional Semester Calendar-based Online Courses. Use the product as intended within an 18-week semester calendar to pace student. Highly qualified subject area teachers can be in the room with students or from a distance. This is ideal for programs with limited enrollments, such as Advanced Placement or world language courses. For example use courseware to assign AP Calculus to students who sit in the back of the room in a mathematics instructor’s pre-calculus class. Using an 18-week semester calendar will help pace students (and posting of grades to transcripts in the student information system), as the immediate access to the instructor and ease for one-on-one instruction will enhance student opportunity for success.
- Single Content Area Virtual Lab. Schedule students in a lab for one period of the traditional school day. Assign one subject area (e.g. English, grades 9-12) hosted in the lab with a highly qualified teacher in the room. The instructor may conduct whole class activities (great for hands-on investigations or projects to enhance the digital content), individualized small group instruction (by specific subject area or fill learning gaps), and one-on-one tutoring. This model could be used for original credit or in a recovery setting.
- Credit Recovery or Graduation Virtual Lab. Typically this is why many schools seek secondary courseware, but finding the best deployment model, with supports is necessary for student success. Remember these students failed to earn credit in a traditional classroom with support, so they will need additional guidance and tutoring in a digital content setting. Planning is essential. This should be scheduled as a regular period of the day for students to help them with time management. Student working on multiple subject areas may be assigned to the lab. Highly qualified subject area teachers work with students from a distance. However, a lab coach, should support students through tutoring, progress monitoring, and maintaining an open line of communication with course instructors. Consider offering onsite tutoring options with instructors during lunch, before and/or after school. Most models use open enrollment with various start and end dates, such that once a student recovers a credit, they can proceed into the next course, with the goal to complete one course every nine weeks.
- Freshman Academy. Don’t wait until students are in need of extra credits to expose them to time management and self-discipline skills needed in the digital learning environment. Just because the course is available 24/7 does not mean students will access it – even one hour a day, unless your train them to develop skills for success. Start under classmen off with a digital learning experience. Offer an elective course, or foundational skills courses, in a lab setting during the school day. Add face-to-face instruction focused on time management and skills need for success in school (e.g. goal setting). Coach students on how take ownership for their own learning in digital learning environments.
- Independent Study Program. For the highly motived, self-disciplined student an option to work from home could work to their and your advantage, especially in limited enrollment and/or elective courses. Assign highly qualified subject area instructors to work with students from a distance. Consider offering onsite tutoring options with instructors during lunch, before and/or after school, and requiring on-site face-to-face proctoring of exams as well. An open enrollment option with individualized calendar of due dates will help students monitor their own progress and pace. Schools may want to limit courses offerings to keep the program manageable and successful.
- Unit Recovery. In the traditional face-to-face classroom some students will typically fail a unit test after instruction. Rather than allowing the student to fail, digital content can be used to re-assign learning opportunities, as well as re-test. Have your teachers align courseware with units of study and use that content to assign students digital content to re-work/test. Define a specific short time frame (e.g. 2-5 days) to re-test and replace the failing grade. This is a great opportunity to immediately rectify a situation and reduce the need for credit recovery later down the road.
- Blended Classroom. Courseware provides opportunities to supplement the traditional classroom with digital content. Like the unit recovery model above, have your teachers align courseware with units of study in their traditional classrooms. They could use the digital assets by projecting content during direct instruction (whole class or small group). Or teachers could assign a full unit of study digitally, rather than traditional instruction, by having all students work on the same digital content over an allotted timeframe. If students were well trained and prepared to learn digitally, assigning online units of study when a substitute is needed works wonderfully.
- Flex Academy. Consider a school-within-a-school model with a specific targeted group (e.g. under credited students, sixth grade academy). Assign highly qualified subject area instructors to the program in core content areas (e.g. math, science, English, social studies) to work with students every day, onsite, in the classroom. This model may be set up in a large learning environment (e.g. library) or a wing of classrooms designated in a specific hall of your building. To focus students and increase opportunities for success, consider assigning a limited number of courses, such as three online courses per nine weeks, yet document an individualized learning plan with the full year or semester course load to guide student expectations.
- Soft Suspension or Behavior Program. When students need a break from the general population of your school, digital content can be used to keep them from falling behind in the traditional classroom instruction. Have your teachers identify digital content aligned to their classroom objectives to be assigned to students while out of the traditional setting. The course instructor can then monitor student work, progress, and success from a distance. The program coach/guide should support students through tutoring, progress monitoring, and maintaining an open line of communication with course instructors. When the student returns to the general population they are ready to pick up with the classroom, as if they never missed a beat.
- Summer School and/or Summer Bridge. Vendor contracts run a full 12 months, so why not take advantage of it. Use the digital content to offer opportunities in the summer to earn credits in a summer school setting. Also consider a summer bridge program that builds upon foundational skill gaps, or to prepare students for advanced studies (e.g. advanced placement courses). Time frames vary, but typically run from two to six weeks. Course offerings may be limited for ease of management and to focus student success. For best results, require daily attendance and have highly qualified content area instructors in the classroom with students who conduct can whole class, small group, and one-on-one instruction.
Vendor products are not cheap, so look for was to maximize your investment. Considering how to reach more students when deploying online courseware. Let the expertise of an i3DigitalPD consultant help you identify and establish models that meet your goals and designed for student success.
Quick reference of the 10 Models for Courseware in the following INFORGRAPHIC: