Online Learning: 4 Pluses & 4 Plights
Caryn Voskuil & Maggie Wunderlich, Mgr of School Model Innovation | Curriculum & Assessments Associate
At Rocketship, we believe online learning allows Rocketeers to access the right content at the right speed. Whether students are learning in the learning lab or on a Chromebook in their classroom, we are focused on maximizing both remediation and acceleration opportunities for learning.
Online learning has many benefits. For students, it creates a safe and intimate space to practice and make mistakes and opportunities to discover meaning on their own. For teachers, online learning programs provide targeted practice and vastly reduce the burden on data collection. In some cases, it creates homework or centers material. We’re proud to have pioneered many blended learning practices, and we’ve worked to help programs improve since we started using them in 2007. But this is just the beginning; online learning programs still have a long way to go.
The Top 4 Reasons Why We Love Online Curricula
Online curricula increase the efficiency of teaching and learning. Students receive personalized and differentiated pathways that are customized to attack gaps in knowledge and quickly fill them with the appropriate instruction. Assessment is quick and targeted, with each student’s path immediately adjusted as needed. The efficiency of online programs frees up the teacher to focus on higher-order and critical thinking skills with students while also reducing the burden of planning differentiated practice for every student.
Online programs allow for a large amount of student choice over place (where they complete the content in the classroom), pace (how quickly they complete the content) and path (the learning track that is customized to meet students’ needs). Programs are highly engaging and build student autonomy by allowing students to make decisions about their learning.
Adaptive online curricula are ideal for the inclusive classroom. Programs have features and tools to adapt for students in various levels of intervention, English Language Learners and students with learning exceptionalities. Online curricula often serve as a motivator or reward for students with behavior challenges.
Online learning programs teach students the relevance of using 21st century technology to build their knowledge. Students use computers as tools — just like an adult would — to build digital literacy and prove mastery. Further, different programs appeal to different students depending on the engagement strategy of the program, so we like to provide a diverse suite of programs to all Rocketeers. Ample choice creates significantly higher levels of engagement.
The Top 4 Ways Online Curricula Need to Grow
Many programs provide students an entirely different curriculum than what they are currently learning in the classroom. We need programs with clear links to current classroom content. Most programs are aligned to the Common Core, but few partner directly with print curricula companies to provide students parallel tracks (including remediation or enrichment) inside and outside of the classroom.
We need programs that provide a greater degree of customizability or include individualized suites of programs that are targeted for specific students’ needs. In an ideal world, we would love to purchase programs at different levels (per student or per class) and enable teachers to create, upload and manipulate content. This way, we could build unique paths for students, specifically targeting their content and/or language needs.
Students need a place to show evidence of content mastery, not just completion of content. We need programs that allow students to create content and build an online portfolio of what they know. This will provide us with better standards achievement and proficiency data, as well as allow students to access the critical thinking and non-cognitive (e.g. persistence) skills that are demanded by the Common Core.
We need programs that are “game-ified” to build student engagement and that mirror the modular build of many video games. Teachers should be able to build and rearrange customized content paths for students using modular content that could easily be aligned to classroom instruction.
Online learning ultimately unleashes time and learning for students. We want to leverage tech to do the things that teachers cannot easily do, like leveling texts instantly, quickly gathering and collecting student feedback and aggregating data in real time. The potential for online curricula to provide a lift to our teachers and students is still in the early stages. The future of online learning is limitless.
Caryn Voskuil is Rocketship’s Manager of School Model Innovation, a role dedicated to improving on Rocketship’s learning models. Caryn grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied journalism. She joined Teach for America in 2009, where she taught middle school in the DC region and earned a MA in Education from American University. When Caryn isn’t rethinking elementary school from the ground up, you’ll find her on the tennis court, going for a run, or curled up with a great book. In January, Caryn was honored in Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30: Education list.
Follow Caryn on Twitter: @CarynVoskuil
Maggie Wunderlich is a member of the National Curriculum & Assessments team at Rocketship. She grew up on the East Coast and attended Gettysburg College, where she studied English and Theatre Arts. After graduation, Maggie joined AmeriCorps, where she delivered one-to-one literacy tutoring to elementary school students. She then managed an after-school reading program in East Oakland and earned a Master of Arts degree in Education before teaching upper elementary and middle school for three and a half years. When she’s not at Rocketship, Maggie likes to cook, read, travel, and spend lots of time outside.
Published on May 19, 2014