The personalized learning movement is profoundly changing the landscape of education. In all corners of the country and countless places in between, we are seeing blended learning schools open up in larger numbers each year. The value of high quality academic content delivered in a very 21st century and digital way combined with guided support and help from face to face teachers and academic coaches is resonating in schools and also at the dining room table.
At Nexus Academy of Lansing, we employ a very special group of staff members known as Success Coaches. Our Success Coaches are certified teachers who work with their students every single day, but are not delivering any one content specialty. They are guiding discussion, overseeing academic research, providing daily college and career readiness activities, and acting as each student’s go to mentor and advocate.
The Success Coaches and their students spend significant amounts of time on soft skills, such as resume building, time management, decision making activities, and countless other skills they will need sharpened as they prepare to enter college and the workforce. The student and Success Coach relationship is the bedrock of a Nexus Academy of Lansing education. They are creating GenDIY learners and adults through their daily interactions and support. Students who have graduated from our school come back and tell us that due to the nature of our school and model, they are faring very well in the college setting at being able to manage their time, balancing a heavy academic load, and also feeling very comfortable advocating for themselves with their professors. With the ongoing shift to various digital systems at the collegiate level, our former students also feel overwhelmingly prepared to handle those mediums.
The blended learning environment allows for students to be supported in a variety of ways. Not only is each student in daily and constant communication with their Success Coach, but they also receive support from their core content teachers throughout the week as well. Due to a wonderful learning management system, our students’ parents and guardians are also able to be a part of the daily academic conversation due to the account access they are given upon enrollment of their child that allows them to be in ongoing digital communication with all of their student’s teachers, Principal, and the student. In our model, the student, parent/guardian, Success Coach, teachers, Counselor, and Principal are all in concert with how the student is doing both academically and socially/emotionally at all times. Our students are also able to take advantage of several interventions and evening online support as they require as well.
A must have in the highly virtual learning space is the capability for the student to work on their whole self as well. By providing both a full time School Counselor and Personal Trainer we allow our students to take a step back from the computer and exercise both their (emotional) mind and physical self as well. Educating and supporting the whole student is at the core of our mission and we know all pieces must work in unison for a student to achieve at their highest abilities.
School culture is a vital piece to the successful blended learning school. Students are coming to these schools to become more independent, self focused, and engaged in their learning. Students at Nexus Academy of Lansing own their high school education, and they love that. The learning environment in a blended school must be positive, upbeat, and one free from judgement. Students must be encouraged to dig deep, do the tough research, and then share their product with their teacher or Success Coach for guidance as they progress through the given project. We allow for our students to come early or stay late so that their learning is ongoing and not dictated by a bell going off at some arbitrary time. Our students have 24/7 access to their academic content and our curriculum, that is intentional. GenDIY learners in this 21st century atmosphere have brilliant ideas that strike at 3am or while on the bus, and the beauty of a blended learning education is that they don’t have to wait until the next day or week for that idea to be fleshed out and shared.
The first step to successfully implementing any parts of this model is to bring it all back to relationships. It is not lip service, relationships matter, and they must be real. As students navigate through these highly challenging and fast paced modes of learning, it is of the utmost importance that they know they have adults around them who are passionate about them, their lives, and their accomplishments. Creating a strong on-boarding/orientation process for all new students and families is a great first step in the relationship building and model teaching processes. This also must continue on throughout the year, not just in early September. In the blended learning setting, getting to know one’s students is just so important, as the Success Coach may be the person they spend the most time around during their high school years. The time spent with the students must not only meet their current, in the moment academic needs, but also must be planned and intentional so that Success Coach and student are working together, in unison, as they march along the path to graduation day.
The 21st century high school student is a technology savvy, independent thinker. We must not underestimate the importance of schools needing to embrace the generation of their students and use their modern day strengths to provide a highly rigorous and deeply relevant education.
For more check out:
- Connections Education & Nexus Academy: Changing the Vision
- Connections Education: Creating Powerful Experiences for Learners
Young people are taking control of their own pathway to careers, college and contribution. Powered by digital learning, “GenDIY” is combatting unemployment and the rising costs of earning a degree by seeking alternative pathways to find or create jobs they love. Follow their stories here and on Twitter at #GenDIY.