ASU Prep Digital: Empowering Students

Online learning provides students around the world with access and opportunities that they may not have had available otherwise–advanced courses, more electives and world languages, and a different approach to a challenging topic.

In our continued exploration of the space, we’ve been watching ASU Prep Digital, a thoughtfully designed extension of the innovative Arizona State University. It offers a new college prep option that combines high school and university courses in a unique learning opportunity for all students. ASU Prep Digital has opened access to college learning opportunities through content and experience, while providing navigation to students as they design their high school journey.

Julie Young is CEO of ASU Prep Digital and Deputy Vice President of ASU Educational Outreach. I’ve known Julie for almost 20 years; we both started online schools in the 1990s. The school she launched, Florida Virtual School, became a well known innovative and high performing partner to school districts in Florida and then around the country.

Julie Young on ASU Prep Digital

In a recent conversation with Julie, she noted four innovations at ASU Prep Digital.

Flexible pace. Part of the innovative public charter school ASU Preparatory Academy (PreK-12), ASU Prep Digital was created with a goal to eliminate geographic barriers and combine high school and college courses. Students are given the flexibility to take Cambridge rigor college prep and online ASU college courses from anywhere in the world. The model gives students the opportunity to advance when ready. Julie and the rest of the executive team collectively bring over 100 years of experience in online learning and have served over 2 million students virtually.

With the student loan debt crisis and the cost of a four-year degree becoming astronomical, concurrent enrollment saves students time and money when they get to college. Another benefit: students are better prepared and may even have their first two years of college completed. Conservatively speaking, that’s a saving of upwards of $25,000.

Rigorous and adaptive. Learning is driven by the highly regarded Cambridge curriculum that prepares students for careers in a globally connected workforce landscape. A personalized approach supports student-centered learning and student agency. Their adaptive digital learning platform individualizes each student’s’ learning path and uses metrics that show teachers and coaches how they are performing in their courses.

Coaching and mentorship. ASU Prep Digital offers a robust support model designed for each individual learner, a key component to student success at any school, but especially online. Students are provided success coaches and receive daily communication, live lessons and 24/7 tutoring. Student relationships are emphasized through access to peers, teachers, coaches and learning environment to explore all aspects of their selected learning.

Here’s what a typical day may look like for a full-time student:

8:00-9:00        Alarm goes off (if you need one!), Shower, Breakfast

9:00-10:00       Attend Algebra 1 Live Lesson

10:00-11:00     Work on History Project and Turn it In Today

11:00-12:00     Lunch

12:00-2:00       Call Mrs. Safi about English paper due Friday and work on rough draft

2:00-3:00         Complete Unit 1 Lesson 2 in Leadership

3:00-4:00         Attend History Live Lesson

4:00                 Read e-mail messages from school then Free Time!


VR and AI. ASU Prep Digital is in partnership and already developing new learning tools, including virtual reality simulations and AI-guided learning which will be released to students as the components are ready. These innovative learning tools are being developed, validated and backed by Arizona State University (recently named the country’s most innovative university for the third straight year). The school’s strategic vision includes global expansion with an ever-expanding network that connects students, teachers and schools around the world.

There are a lot of great online learning options, but Julie and her team are doing it differently. ASU Prep Digital is combining high school and college because they are so deeply embedded in the university. ASU Prep Digital students are simultaneously enrolled in the high school offerings, and as non-degree seeking ASU student in order to offer differentiated virtual access formats in college and high school for students anywhere in the world.

Online learning in general, and ASU Prep Digital specifically, isn’t for every student. Full or part-time students (a la carte or diploma track) who are looking for an alternative to traditional school would likely be a good fit. While they are a private model for students outside of Arizona, they do have scholarships available. As they continue to grow, the team at ASU Prep Digital will remain intentional in their vision of serving students who may not otherwise have the means to attend a private school and improving educational attainment at every level.

Our take on ASU Prep Digital

Our team had the chance to take a virtual demo of a few courses. The platform was well built and fluid in regards to the student experience of each course. The course framing supported the needs of various learning styles and delivered resources for deeper learning opportunities that were embedded within the course design. The content was rich in its design and easy to navigate with emphasis on the framing of the curriculum and student learning platform as a whole.

As an online learning provider, ASU Digital Prep has amplified their deep partnership with Arizona State University and created a bridge for high school students to access collegiate level academic content. This seamless opportunity provides a powerful solution for full-time, part-time and international students with aspirations for rigorous learning and streamlined college acceptance at leading universities.

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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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