Overcoming the #1 Challenge for Online Students
Most students still learn using a method that has existed in our schools for over 100 years. In a typical classroom setting, students sit at desks in rows and the teacher “teaches” from the front of the room. The typical student has been trained since childhood for someone to give them information while listening and taking notes.
While the traditional classroom is adept at preparing students for industrial and knowledge-based jobs, it has not kept pace with preparing students for an economy that employs a greater share of workers in service and innovation-based economies.
Today, new learning methods are available to give students an expanded skill set needed for their future. Many schools today are utilizing project-based learning (PBL) and computer-based instruction in the form of online and blended learning to fill the gaps left by traditional instruction. These initiatives are expected to grow as research studies indicate that families want more technology-based instruction and less use of teacher-driven instruction.
However, given that students have been conditioned to learn in only the traditional model, schools and students typically struggle when online courses are made available. Suddenly students must control the pace of learning, show initiative, and make choices about where to invest their time and energy.
In order for students to successfully make the transition, schools and online learning providers must purposefully engage students in activities that train them for a new learning paradigm. Schools can greatly increase their chance of successfully onboarding new students with the following best practices:
- Ensure students acquire the basic skills needed to succeed.
- How: Assess student readiness using an online learning assessment and provide a student orientation course to ensure that students have the tools they need. Orientation should show students how to navigate their course, complete their work, contact their teacher, and get technical support. It should also make them aware of policies, procedures, and expectations.
- Provide more guidance and oversight to students at the beginning of their online courses.
- How: Before students begin their first day as online learners, online instructors should introduce themselves through a welcome email and phone or Skype conversation. Teachers should review course expectations and schedule regular calls and chats throughout the course.
- Monitor student progress and effort in the background so teachers can intervene when students need academic assistance or motivation to stay on pace.
- How: Parents, students, and any supporting school staff should review online gradebooks regularly and subscribe to progress update notifications that are automatically sent from their online course system. Typically, these weekly updates will confirm that students are progressing in their course and allow intervention by an adult if there is an academic issue.
- Reward students for the behaviors that lead to success.
- How: Students that are doing well in their online courses should be acknowledged via positive feedback loops from their system, parents, teachers, and staff. The encouragement will keep students motivated to successfully complete their course. Students who excel academically should also be offered the opportunity to take honors courses and to earn an honors diploma that recognizes their achievements.
By making these efforts, schools will better prepare students for success in online learning environments, in addition to better preparing them for college and careers where independent learning is expected.
If your Christian school has a vision to start an online program, Sevenstar offers a FREE assessment that can help your school develop a roadmap for success.
Prior to his conceptualizing Sevenstar, Dr. Beadle was the elementary principal of Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, a school that won national awards and grew to 1,400 students (K-12) in the 16 years he served there. Dr. Beadle has taught all levels of students (elementary, middle school, high school, and college) and in public, international, missionary, and Christian schools. Dr. Beadle holds degrees from Taylor University and Purdue University. His doctorate is from the University of Cincinnati. He can be reached via Twitter @markbeadle7 or LinkedIn.
Sevenstar is a world leader in online Christian education. Over 500 Christian schools use Sevenstar as their online learning provider to meet academic needs and maintain oversight of their students. Online courses present academic material from a Christ-centered worldview and are offered with highly certified Christian teachers.