Each year, I look forward to attending the iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium, and this year’s 2015 symposium was no different. This event provides me, and other blended and online learning practitioners and providers, with a tremendous opportunity to connect over best practices and exciting findings on the success of new models for student success.
My main goal walking into the symposium was to secure my understanding of the latest trends in policy and decision-making around the digital marketplace. With that in mind, I attended numerous speeches and sessions, and I networked with others to find out key lessons that should be learned this year.
Innovation was definitely the focus this year with the buzz words competency-based learning, personalization, growth mindset, and data.
Thought leaders presented innovative presentations that zeroed us in on initiatives for:
- Leadership within the classroom
- More and better quality teacher professional development
- Factoring in the needs of special populations
- Accurate and timely evaluations
- Frequent and relevant assessments
- Understanding the best ways to collect and measure data
- Reporting and sharing data with team members
Innovation at iNACOL
Participants were repeatedly provided the United States Department of Education’s (USDOE) latest data on course accessibility within traditional brick-and-mortar schools. The data, however, was not inspiring and the numbers demand innovative changes.
Did you know that only 50 percent of high schools in the U.S. offer Calculus and only 63 percent offer Physics?
The numbers are especially grim for traditional schools serving at-risk and minority populations. Across America right now, only 75 percent of high schools with high percentages of Black or Latino students offer Algebra II.
iNACOL President Susan Patrick challenged attendees to collaborate on addressing these bleak statistics through meaningful, student-centered opportunities that provide flexible solutions for teachers, leaders, parents, and students.
The challenge formed some great collaborative ideas like:
- Consider creative funding opportunities to address the inequities in your state or region through online and blended learning.
- Explore ways to involve parents, community leaders, and educators to design new models for learning personalized for neighborhoods, regions, and special populations.
- Expand your AP catalog to extend the reach of your online program to new student groups.
- Diversify your catalog by adding electives, CTE courses, and tutorial and enrichment support.
The innovative, feasible changes are endless when endeavoring to provide a long-term solution to personalizing a student’s education path.
In addition to innovation, another overarching theme of the symposium was the importance of creating definitions and measurements of program success early on in program implementation. Equally as important was the ability to adjust programs to be able to meet the diverse needs of students. It is imperative that a modifiable program is created in order to prevent a cookie-cutter learning approach that we know does not work for all students.
Fuel Education at iNACOL
Fuel Education received recognition in sessions featuring promising practices in online and blended learning. Speakers highlighted FuelEd’s flexibility in providing customized solutions for clients in a variety of settings. Prominent was the impact that data analytics allows teachers and administrators to be able to personalize their student experiences, thus ensuring student success.
FuelEd’s usability and the positive academic results of its clients were also well represented through a variety of client presentations illustrating student and teacher success. (PIC OF HEATHER) Project Tomorrow’s report on the Poudre School District Global Academy (PSD Global) and Principal Heather Hiebsch received considerable interest this year at the symposium as a blended learning success story as well.
Next year, we encourage all of our Fuel Education teachers, students, parents, and administrators to continue to come out to share their success stories with others. We want to show districts that blended personalized learning is more effective than traditional brick-and-mortar school learning models and that it isn’t something we should be afraid of implementing.
With my goal to understand the latest trends in policy and decision-making, I walked away with some key takeaways.
- Consumers are expanding their creative and innovative uses of online products.
- We are all beginning to ask important questions about results of these programs and how they affect student engagement and performance
About the Author
Anne Roycroft is an award-winning Social Studies teacher with over 10 years of experience in online learning. This includes work in curriculum development, proposals, state approvals, and correlations, along with professional development and training. Earning a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Doctorate in School Improvement with a dissertation on project-based learning in online Social Studies classrooms, Anne brings valuable expertise to Fuel Education in her role as portfolio manager for Core and AP® curriculum.