A Wish List for Online Learning: Ephrata Virtual Academy


Tuesday, December 23, 2014 - 9:00am

Around the holiday season, people begin to make lists and check off what’s been accomplished to-date. Whether it is a wish list or a look back at last year’s resolutions, December is a natural time for review and contemplation.  In light of the season, we’ve reached out to folks and asked them to tell us about their wish lists for online learning. 

Recently we sat down with Learning Outside the Lines contributor, Daniel Mahlandt, Coordinator of Virtual Education for the Ephrata Area School District in Ephrata, Pennsylvania to find out what he’s seen as the major developments in online learning in 2014 and what’s on his wish list for 2015. 

Here’s what Daniel had to say:

Learning Outside the Lines: As you reflect on 2014, what has happened over the course of the year to push the adoption online learning?

Dan Mahlandt:  What I’ve seen is an improved dialogue regarding online learning.  It’s a natural evolution that comes from an improved knowledge base within the learning community.  Much of this work is because of the efforts of communities like Learn Outside the Lines that connects educators and gives us the tools and information to be advocates for personalized learning programs within our schools.  We’ve also seen a blurring of the lines between the term ‘blended learning’ and ‘personalized learning.’   I’m glad this has happened, because if blended learning isn’t personalized, then we seriously need to evaluate why we would be doing it.

LOTL: Moving on to 2015, what’s on your wish list for personalized learning?

DMt: I’d like to see more of the same! We’re in a really good place in terms of the number of practitioners and the knowledge that we have about how blended learning programs work in schools and how it benefits students. 

So my wish list is pretty simple:

1.       To continue connecting with each other to improve our knowledge base and share best practices so that we can move further along the personalized learning continuum.

2.       To make personalized learning the primary goal for all schools and to give schools the vision to see that blended learning is the only way to deliver personalized learning right now.

LOTL: What should districts be considering as they look to adopt more blended learning and full-time online learning programs?

DM:  Vision and planning!  Personalized learning is about fundamentally changing the way we educate students and ‘do business’ in schools.  We need to begin with getting district leadership on board, educating them on the results that online learning can deliver.  If there are areas that the district is already prepared to invest in, such as boosting on-time graduation through credit recovery, pacing, or summer school, then those are good areas to start to integrate digital and personalized learning tools.   Every school wants to get each one of their students to reach their potential, but to pretend that we can do that in a 1:30 environment is not realistic.  Sure, we can manage in that type of system, but as educators we’re better than that, and our students certainly deserve more. 

Once District leadership can see the power of it, then the hard work of planning begins.  Having done this for a few years now, my best practice recommendation is to create a three year plan that details how you want your school to look when you walk down the hall in three years.  Will you be satisfied if you see traditional teaching in each classroom?  Will it be enough to see a few pockets of early adopters?  With that “end in mind” you can break down the planning into palatable chunks.


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