Last month I had the opportunity to share options for digital learning that opens doors for high school students from the early freshman year to college ready senior year. Often, we think of digital courseware as a solution to a single problem; typically credit recovery or within alternative education. Having courseware opens numerous opportunities. Check out the Apex Learning Personalized Learning webinar: Think Outside the Box – Moving Beyond Credit Recovery.
When designing digital learning environments, teacher preparation is just as important as student readiness. Personally, I’m a huge fan of “go slow, to go fast.” This means start with something small, something easy for both students and teachers. Use a tiny pilot. Watch it closely, refine as needed. Set everyone – the students, the teachers, the digital courseware – up for success. Since the digital content is new to both students and teachers, think of ways to create a learning environment that allows for familiarity with as little pressure as necessary. For example, elective classes can be fun and engaging, typically requiring less homework. Given a choice, start with electives. Freshman year is an ideal place to have students experience digital success with an online elective, embedded in an advisory type blended environment.
Digital courseware can be introduced in a blended classroom by using the CIA model of blended learning, where teachers have a full understanding and embrace a balanced approach to digital curriculum, guided instruction, and authentic assessment. Blended classrooms are an ideal way to introduce students to taking ownership of their own learning, in a nurturing environment. Students still have a structured learning environment and see their teacher five days a week. Teachers can conduct whole group introductions, set students loose on digital courseware, while pulling small groups for tutoring, then bring everyone back together for a classroom closure.
After teachers and students have a full understanding of the digital learning environment, and with more experiences, they will be able to handle additional and different digital deployments. I’ve seen way too many schools that started out thinking students would breeze through digital courseware, but were disappointed, as students failed to launch. A slow roll is much better. By sophomore year, students will be ready for a gradual release into digital learning, by mixing and matching face-to-face classes with blended classrooms.
Set your students and staff up for success by going slow, to go fast. Start by creating learning environments that use a lot of hand holding, guidance, and support. Slowly you can open more doors with the courseware as students have a better understanding on the demands of learning digitally. As students become mature digital learners, they will be more independent with better time management skills. Allow them to grow up digitally. After success in electives, in their junior year, students may like to take core classes with digital learning options.
Building on success, year after year, in a slow roll, students and staff become familiar with partnering with digital content. In senior year, just months away from college, students should be ready for a college hybrid model. Use digital courseware to extend the classroom beyond the four walls, where students only meet with their teachers every other day.
Allow students to grow up digitally. Begin in the early years and gradually release responsibility to students for their own learning. Check out the Think Outside the Box – Moving Beyond Credit Recovery webinar for more information about using digital courseware from freshman to senior years in high school.