Blended Learning: Building High Schools Around Student Needs
While full-time virtual schooling is a great solution for many kids, it might not be a good fit for everyone. Some students may prefer face-to-face instruction or miss the company of their peers. Yet teens in particular desire the added flexibility and personalization online school can provide. As online education continues to grow in popularity, Connections Education has drawn on the knowledge gained from 11 years of experience with virtual school students to develop a brand new high school model that brings together the best of both worlds.
Improving the Ability to Personalize Learning
New Nexus Academy blended high schools in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio offer a unique blend of in-person and online learning, plus the extra personal attention some students need to succeed.
Mickey Revenaugh, Connections Education executive vice president, explained the thinking behind these blended learning schools in a presentation at the International Association of K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL) Virtual School Symposium in 2012. “Many teens typically think high school is boring, impersonal, and irrelevant to their lives. This new school model offers more flexibility than a traditional school, plus ways to customize learning to a student’s abilities and interests, making it more personal and engaging.”
Increasing Student Engagement and Motivation
“We’re essentially wiping the slate clean on high school and starting over by building schools around kids instead of vice versa. We have discovered that when students can sit where they want, eat when they want, and tackle their courses in the order they want—yet benefit from close, guiding relationships with face-to-face teachers and other adults dedicated to their future—they perform well.”
Students at the first Nexus Academy schools in Ohio and Michigan have reported that their new schools are “like I imagine college to be” and “the first place [where] adults asked my opinion about what school should be like, and actually listened.”
Promoting Individual Progress
At Nexus Academy schools, students attend in person four half-days per week, in the mornings or afternoons. They continue learning at home or wherever there’s an Internet connection, using a school-provided laptop computer. With greater scheduling flexibility, students can customize their time outside of school with internships, employment, community service, and sports or other extracurricular activities.
The schools are small by design, with enrollment limited to a few hundred students. “This small scale enables us to deliver a more personalized learning experience,” Mickey stated. “English and math teachers work face-to-face with students in small classes, so they receive plenty of individual attention.”
Other courses are taken online, with one-on-one support from teachers as needed. Students select from many online courses, including Career Technical Education (CTE) courses. Students can also enhance the challenge of their academics and prepare for college with a variety of Honors and Advanced Placement courses. Licensed guidance counselors are available to coach students on graduation requirements, college application, and career planning.
Teaming up with Success Coaches
In addition to receiving instruction from their online and face-to-face teachers, Nexus Academy students also work with Success Coaches, who provide both instructional and guidance support. These caring adults act as mentors and help ensure students remain focused on schoolwork and on track for graduation. Students also have access to Live Tutor, a system that enables them to connect one-on-one with teachers online during scheduled tutoring times.
The specially designed environment at Nexus Academy schools was developed for a more personal approach, too. Open spaces and modular furnishings allow students to be grouped dynamically in teams. The layout makes it easy for students to connect with teachers for assistance, or to collaborate on projects with other students. Principals and guidance counselors aren’t hidden in offices; they’re out “on the floor” interacting with students. Moreover, most schools have an on-site fitness center where personal trainers help students customize their own workouts.
With the rise of online and blended learning schools, today’s parents and students have many options. These dynamic changes empower families to create truly personalized learning experiences that will help high school students succeed.
What do you think about blended learning as an option for yourself or your high school student?