Private School Extends Impact With Online Learning

Oaks Christian School in west Los Angeles offers a values-based world class secondary education.  To expand the options of the 1400 onsite students and extend their reach to new students, the school worked with online learning provider SevenStar to launch Oaks Christian Online School in 2011. Compared to the onsite cost of $27,160, the online program costs $7,250.
With our friends at SevenStar, we reached out to Director Vicki Conway who does a great job presenting stories about her students on the Oaks Online site.

Who initiated the idea of moving from a traditional classroom setting to online?
Our CFO, Paul Oberhaus, Headmaster, Jeff Woodcock, and Board members initiated the move to online.
Which courses are you offering online?
We currently offer a comprehensive list of courses, but have only replaced Health, Academic Technology and a section of American Government on our main-campus.
Why did your school decide to move certain courses online?
We did it because 1) we feel that all high school students should experience online learning and these particular courses involve every freshman and sophomore student, and 2) we were able to save the school a substantial amount of money while offering flexibility in students’ schedules.
How did you approach the financial justification for this move?
We have a 5 year strategic plan for sustainability and growth. The analysis of savings in FTE’s, space and other factors play a large part in our strategic plan.
What other factors contributed to this decision?
Our parents are asking for more flexibility, and our main campus has just moved to an all-campus LMS. Parents and students expect to have online options.  Also, the UC announced last year that 10% of its coursework would be going online.
How did you introduce the idea to stakeholders to get them onboard?
Our main-campus teachers reviewed the courses. We offered the courses in summer school to help introduce them to our student population and provide flexibility during the school year. We kept the deans, counselors, student body, parents, and teachers well informed through the process. It has taken us 2 ½ years to transition to fully online.
Which group of stakeholders was the hardest to convince that this was the right move at your school?
Teachers have been the most skeptical group.  They have slowly realized it can provide them with more options for teaching and learning.
What has been the impact of this move?
Students and parents have more flexibility during the semester and if they need to matriculate in or out. A few members of our staff have increased their income. Our school has reaped a financial benefit.
What has been the overall student experience with the online courses?
The majority of students do very well and learn self-advocacy and persistence. A lot is shared in the online classroom that would not be shared in school.  There is democratic access to the materials and some students feel more free to participate. A few students still struggle with independent learning, and we provide a learning lab for them.
Do you feel like their online experience is preparing them for college and career?
Yes. We have students participating in several dual-enrollment, online colleges and they do very well. Our annual survey also shows that parents agree. Our graduating seniors are also taking college credits and an understanding of online learning with them. It does not seem to have impacted our college admit rates at all.
Has the online program enabled your school to reduce expenses and/or generate additional revenue?  
We are in the phase of reducing cost on our campus.  Our summer school program has doubled each year.
Do you have a dedicated staff supporting your online program?
Yes, we do have dedicated teachers and staff. We support a fully-online, comprehensive online high school as well.
How are you marketing/promoting your online program to your students and their parents?
We create a monthly newsletter that highlights our online progress. We also put out annual question and answer documents and meet regularly with board subcommittees.
What advice would you give to other schools to help them explore this idea?
Just to keep pace with changes in education, schools should offer some form of online learning.  It’s not difficult to get started with a partner, and whether or not specific classes fit the needs of the school can only be determined by experiencing the process.

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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