Letting Students Set the Pace of Learning


Friday, March 7, 2014 - 1:00am

In part three of our series with Daniel Mahlandt, director for the Ephrata Virtual Academy of the Ephrata Area School District in Pennsylvania, we take a closer look at how a personalized learning platform can be used to assist students in maintaining their progress for an on-time graduation.  Often referred to as credit recovery program, where students can make up missing credits without waiting for summer school, Dan explains why he prefers the term "pacing."

FuelEducation: What is pacing? How does it differ from credit recovery?

Daniel Mahlandt (DM):  When I began this program with the Ephrata Virtual Academy, I created credit recovery labs in the high schools and now I’m trying to get rid of the name because credit recovery is just one of the areas that pacing allows us to address.  To explain more fully, pacing—as part of a personalized learning program—gives the students control over their place of learning and the rate at which they learn. In other words, the student can accelerate through material that they understand and take more time to cover material that they struggle to comprehend.

FuelEducation: Why is a blended learning environment better suited to assisting students in meeting their educational goals?

DM: When you think about the traditional classroom with thirty students at different levels, the reality is that the teacher will not be able to individualize learning plans and provide each student with the attention they need if they fall too far outside the average.   A virtual, online, or blended learning program enables the school to really meet vision and mission statements about educating one student at a time.  Not only do the students benefit from being able to leverage lessons and course materials online, but blended learning environments also empower the teacher.  Once a teacher is no longer lecturing to the middle, they are actually more available to teach to the needs of each student.  The results speak for themselves; we’ve experienced an improvement in student test scores, and we have fewer "at risk" students, and fewer students needing to enroll in summer school.

FuelEducation: Can you share a success story with us?

DM: Last year we had a student who was very close to dropping out of school because of issues at home.   We worked with her and her family to find a solution where the issues at home would no longer be a limiting factor for the student.  After some discussion we developed a plan where the student would still be enrolled at a physical school building, but be part of the onsite online learning program where she could work at her own pace throughout the day and after the traditional school day.   In just a couple of months, she went from being a student at risk of dropping out of high school to a student planning her college career.  Now, she’s attending a four-year university and working toward a degree in education.  I’m still struck by how giving students a bit more control over their life and studies can make such a difference in their ability to learn and succeed.


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