Building a network, and tapping into various sources for support and guidance is imperative for GenDIY students. As teachers look for new ways to support students paving pathways to careers, a new partnership is breaking down the silos that commonly exist across educational institutions to leverage the collective talents of teacher leaders to serve students.
Three Illinois suburban school districts recently launched the Expanding Learning Opportunities Consortium (eLo). For students, this means that if you are enrolled in “District A” you have the opportunity to enroll in a virtual course taught by a teacher from District “B” or “C.” eLo encompasses seven high schools. Beginning this August, students will have the opportunity to enroll in one of 14 virtual course offerings including five courses this summer.
The central focus of eLo is to provide students personalized, meaningful learning opportunities which utilize technology. Unique to eLo is the consortium’s commitment to use local teachers as course instructors. Student instruction is not being driven by a computer or a teacher from a for-profit organization. Rather, instruction is provided by one of the consortium’s own educators. Students are receiving personalized instruction accompanied with rigorous content developed and facilitated by a teacher from one of the three school districts.
As one may imagine, when you combine seven high schools in the consortium, natural complexities arise.
- How may we develop processes that systematically work across three districts?
- How may one effectively communicate with key stakeholders across seven schools?
- What do we do if a student struggles in his/her online course?
- What curriculum should we offer?
- Who should facilitate the curriculum?
These are not easy questions, and there are no easy answers. However, when all districts share a common “what’s best for students” philosophy, the answers to the complex questions will arrive. In fact, the answers are authentic because knowledge is built by the collective perspectives of leading professionals spanning three districts.
The feedback from students has been positive.
64% of students chose to enroll in eLo because they felt it would better prepare them for college and their careers. In addition, 42% of students stated an eLo course provided opportunities for them to pursue other activities as well as preparation for postsecondary experiences, which are currently expanding for GenDIY.
There is not a direct time period where all students access their course.
By ensuring eLo students receive rigorous instruction and the freedom to choose when and where they learn, the potential impact on our students is profound.
We provided students with the opportunity to share positive learning experiences in an open-ended format. Students provided insightful observations to their online learning experiences.
- “I learned how to prioritize my work, manage my time, and work with other students in a group. This experience will prepare me for college.”
- “Being able to do all my assignments on my own time was very convenient. This course made my schedule more flexible than taking the course in school.”
- “I think the good aspects of the course were that during each week I had to learn how to problem solve and think independently. I found out more about myself because I wasn’t told exactly what to do by the teacher.”
eLo is an example of how GenDIY students are charting their course through unique learning environments and expanded course access. Does online consortia solve each educational hurdle? Does online consortia replace face-to-face instruction? Not quite. Online consortia, such as eLo, simply provide students more ways to learn that adhere to their needs.
Many high school mission statements include, “Ever-changing world”, “shared responsibility”, continuous learning opportunities”, and “quality producers”. The eLo Consortium provides proof and a means for schools to fulfill the promise of their mission statements to students. The vision, leadership, innovation, and determination of Indian Prairie School District 204, Naperville Community Unit School District 203, and Community Unit School District 200 is remarkable. These three districts have intentionally chosen to work alongside one another to benefit their students.
The Expanding Learning Opportunities Consortium recognizes postsecondary learning coupled with employee training are moving predominantly online. The eLo model will help students better position themselves in postsecondary environments, the competitive job market, and in the search of self construction. For more information about eLo, visit eloconsortium.org.
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