Hannah Bergquist, MTS Minnesota Connections Academy High School Graduate 2010 writes about her experience at Connections Academy, the country’s largest online education provider. Realizing that characteristics of traditional and standardized education were not taking her places that she wanted to be, the socially and academically successful student decided she would take online courses, to see if she could accelerate her learning. You will note, there are not mentions of robots here, or any mention of how taking online courses distanced her from her friends, or her teachers. In fact, it’s the opposite.
With help from my parents, I settled in on MTS Minnesota Connections Academy (MTSMCA), a virtual public school available to students K-12. The online charter school is operated in partnership with Minnesota Transitions School. My parents liked the fact that I would have certified teachers for each subject and would still be able to have access to all state testing and record keeping. I was impressed with their online class modules, LiveLesson® sessions with teachers, many field trip opportunities, and the chance to work at my own pace. All textbooks were provided and included online versions as well. My teachers were just a WebMail or phone call away and I had access to a number of online learning resources. An added bonus was the additional free time. I no longer had to spend time getting to and from school, wait for attendance to be taken or class to quiet down. I just turned on my computer and got to work. This additional time allowed me to add piano, voice lessons, and musical theater to my schedule. In my junior year, MTSMCA asked me to become an online math tutor several evenings a week. While I found this experience challenging because I didn’t know what questions might be asked ahead of time, it was also quite rewarding.
Connections Academy also helped me to prepare for college. In my junior year, MTSMCA offered an ACT prep course, many onsite campus visits around the state, and a class that helped students set up the files and records necessary to apply to various colleges. The prompt, personal attention I always received from the teachers and staff was impressive. By my senior year, my confidence and skills at working independently made me a good candidate for Minnesota’s Post Secondary Education Option (PSEO). Without the support of guidance counselors at MTSMCA, I would have overlooked this incredible opportunity to earn both high school and college credit at the same time. As it is, I just completed a full year of college credit at North Hennepin Community College.
Countries like India have already caught on. They suffer from an acute supply and demand gap, where there are just not enough high quality institutions to supply the overwhelming need students have for quality education that is globally relevant. Barriers to this kind of investment in learning have come down, and venture capital and private equity are rushing into the space to provide the capital needed to increase the offerings and create a benevolent “return on investment” for Indian students. There is a strong focus on online learning.
Ironically, the country that is arguably the most developed nation in the world has a very similar supply and demand gap. Only, in this case, we have the means and the scalable institutions to supply the kind of quality online education that students need to keep relevant in a global marketplace and in a society that is rapidly being transformed by digital technology, social media and the lowered costs of travel, settlement and business. The actual barriers to this growth in this case are not lack of infrastructure or lack of capital. It’s instead the bureaucratic and logistical hurdles put in place by A. people who don’t understand the benefit of online learning and for-profit education, or B. political muscle that refuses to wean itself from the system that feeds it so well.
Should we be denying children this freedom and social cohesion, or even the future? Hannah understands, and so do her parents. They have a success on their hands.
One thing I will always take with me is the feeling of confidence in my ability to succeed that this online experience through Connections Academy instilled in me. Thanks to the guidance of its teachers, counselors, and alternative approach to learning, MTSMCA has helped to provide me with the skills and independence necessary to excel in college and beyond.