Q&A: Blending Private Schools

Following are a few questions from a webinar we did with online learning provider SevenStar.

Mindy Lewis: I would like your opinion on private schools providing the devices vs. the students bringing their own devices.
There are increasing benefits to a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environment for private schools. You could pick a browser or two that you’ll optimize for (e.g., Safari and Chrome) and let folks know if you plan to make extensive use of Flash-based content (which would discourage iPad usage).
For more see a recent blog, 10 Current Lesson Ideas for BYOD and BYOT, and our free ebook, Navigating The Digital Shift: Implementation Strategies For Blended And Online Learning, which includes model acceptable use policies.
Jason Haas: Will adaptive learning and platforms will take hold and grow?
Currently, just 2-3 platforms offer adaptive technology. Here’s a list of 10 adaptive web applications but it’s fair to say that they generally don’t integrate easily with learning management systems (here’s a list of 20). Results from adaptive assessment should flow automagically into a super-gradebook to meet up with other formative assessments and teacher observations but, alas, nobody does that well.
The blended learning platform Education Elements works with Dreambox and i-Ready from Curriculum Associates and provides some unified reporting.
Wayne Knode: What are the qualities to look for when choosing an online learning company?
Following are a few questions to ask:
  • What standards are the courses based on? (less important for private schools, but you’ll want to know what they were aiming for)
  • Do courses run on a proprietary learning management system? Will they run on our LMS?
  • What is the level of student engagement?
  • Are effective teachers available for online delivery?  Are they certified in my state (if applicable/of interest)?
  • If delivered with instruction, are there rolling/frequent start dates?
  • What form of assessments are embedded in the course?
  • Can we add our own content?
  • What kinds of instructional supports are available?
For more, see iNACOL National Standards for Quality Online Courses.  Also, see Washington State’s provider approval criteria and the request for providers for Louisiana course choice.  For broader advice from Rob Waldron see Top Ten Ways to Save Money on Ed Tech (which is turning into a January white paper on procurement).
Chris Smith: How does Summit Public Schools provide 40 days per year of professional development?
The Summit central office team and a group of Bay Area community organization offer a wide range of short courses (expeditions) from a few days to 7 days and they rotate through the network for a total of 8 weeks of alternative programming.  For more, see Summit Denali: 12 Components of an NGLC Winning Design.
Christopher Alcala: What about course materials such as Textbooks? Are there digital options or would there be a need to purchase the books for the class?
Following are three options to consider:
  • Pick a comprehensive platform with content and an learning management system; here’s a list of 10. These are easy manage and monitor but you may be disappointed in the level of student engagement and flexibility for teachers.
  • Pick from from 30 Next-Gen Literacy, Language & Math Resources including a growing list of adaptive learning systems.
In short, don’t’ pay for flat and sequential content (i.e., textbooks online). You should only pay for high engagement content with embedded assessments with flexible and/or adaptive use options.  Check out all the OER before you buy.


Mary Daley: What about online courses for students in grades 3-8?
Through fifth or sixth grade, most online providers address the learning coach (parents/teacher) and assume they need a good deal of support.  By middle grades, virtual school operators assume students have developed the self management to take at least some courses online. Most students will benefit from a supportive learning environment and mixed learning modalities (i.e., blended learning).
To learn more about how one private school expanded options and extended reach see a
Curriculum Associates and Dreambox are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners. Tom is a director at iNACOL.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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