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Customization, Curriculum, and Collaboration: Going Beyond the Stereotypes of Online Learning

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 -- Shannan LaMalfa

Back in the late 1990s and as we passed into the new millennium, there was a lot of fear that online learning would replace the role of educators. However, as online and blended learning has become increasingly the norm, it’s become obvious that learning doesn’t happen without meaningful interactions between teachers and students. Unfortunately, the stereotype still exists that online learning equates to students sitting alone in front of a computer screen, disengaged, and simply going through the motions of learning. In reality, this could hardly be further from the truth.

Teachers drive the online learning experience. Online courses are a flexible tool that they can utilize to meet a variety of student needs, taking a variety of different approaches. Teachers have the unique expertise to connect with students, empower them to learn, and tease out the correct approach to help them make academic gains. Online curriculum complements these abilities with the important tasks of gathering data and delivering content in order to individualize instruction. So, I challenge you to reframe your view of online learning to incorporate a broader spectrum of components, including:

  • High-quality instruction and curriculum to provide or augment first-time credit or to facilitate credit recovery
  • Standards-based content and standards mapping
  • Teacher resources for whole-class or small-group instruction
  • Content that can be assigned directly to individual students
  • Individualized learning paths created based on assessment data
  • Interactive and engaging platforms for content catering to different learning modalities
  • Teacher resources for ongoing training to strengthen online implementation
  • Directives for project-based learning
  • Tools to create and administer formative, interim, and summative assessments
  • Student data available to all stakeholders, including parents
  • Reports and dashboards for easy data visualization
  • Student grouping tools
  • Teacher resources for time and classroom management, including lesson planning and grading
  • Tools to facilitate integration with LMS and other school technology
  • A communication platform for teachers, administrators, students, and parents

Online curriculum may be used as a classroom textbook, curriculum resource, or instructional supplement. It is applicable for original credit, for unit or credit recovery, and to expand course offerings. Whether it’s implemented in a fully-virtual setting, a flipped classroom, a station rotation model, or any other kind of blended learning program, online curriculum is a resource to help teachers offer more flexible options to create successful student outcomes everywhere learning occurs.

To get the most out of online learning, it’s key for educators to communicate clearly and set well-defined expectations. Set students up for success by being sure to:

  • Communicate all course and assignment expectations and procedures
  • Clearly present the goal or objective for each assignment
  • Provide easy access to all materials needed to complete an assignment
  • Offer encouragement and positive feedback
  • Allow students to keep track of their own learning progress
  • Leverage electronic communication options as well as face-to-face communication

Furthermore, as all educators are aware, building rapport with students is an important part of the job. This rapport lays the groundwork for the relationships you hope to build as you move through the year, monitoring student work, deepening student knowledge, and encouraging individual growth. Keep these best-practices in mind to help personalize your students’ experiences in the classroom:

  • Monitor student work on an ongoing basis to understand their progress and comprehension
  • If you are a virtual teacher, know all your students by name and be able to recognize them outside of the online environment
  • Allow students to progress through assignments at their own pace
  • Make yourself available to students on a regular basis to provide help understanding new concepts and practicing new skills
  • Allow students to ask questions as they work through online lessons and assignments
  • Treat all students fairly
  • Customize online content by adding external resources to assignments that align to local objectives or contexts  

Online learning is a complex, student-centered approach, that empowers teachers with new possibilities for customizing learning, while also challenging them to put many traditional tools and strategies to use. It is about so much more than simply putting kids in front of computer screens; it’s about engaging different learning modalities, uncovering genuine interests, monitoring progress, and tailoring learning pace.

At Edmentum, we’re proud to offer comprehensive, engaging, online courseware that educators and students are using to power inspired teaching and learning every day. Interested in learning more? Download our guide to Meeting Student Needs with Online Curriculum