2012-05-06 / Viewpoints

Chalk Talk

Online Learning
By Mike McGough Superintendent Chesaning Union Schools

In my April Chalk Talk, I spoke briefly about Virtual Schools and the fact that the Chesaning Union School District is formulating a plan to implement various opportunities for its students to access online learning. This month I would like to provide more details as to what those types of online learning may look like. The Michigan Merit Curriculum defines a common set of required credits for graduation and provides educators with a common understanding of what students should know and be able to do for credit. It also provides students the learning opportunity, knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college or the workplace. The Michigan Merit Curriculum requirement for online learning states that students:

• Take an online course;

• Participate in an online experience; or

• Participate in an online experience incorporated into each of the required credit courses of the Michigan Merit Curriculum.

To assist us in the ability to allow students to meet this requirement, Chesaning is among many districts who have partnered with GenNet Online Learning. GenNet (www.gennet.us) provides a variety of courses delivered over the Internet. These courses are offered in a variety of formats, which may include: (The following information has been taken from the Michigan Merit Curriculum Guidelines and appears in a condensed form. To view the entire document visit: www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Online1 0.06_ final_ 175750_ 7.pdf)

Teacher-Led: This mode of online learning mirrors the role of a traditional classroom teacher in a virtual environment. This format usually makes use of a Web-based course management system or application such as Blackboard to create an online learning environment for students. The online teacher provides the organization, direction, educational content and feedback for the students. The teacher makes assignments, leads threaded discussions, grades student work, establishes deadlines and administers quizzes and tests.

Blended Instruction: Blended online learning is a balanced mix of traditional face-toface instructional activities with appropriately designed online experiences. Teachers that engage in blended online learning often utilize a course management system as an extension of the physical classroom. This format leverages the communication bene?ts of a traditional classroom environment and links it to the power of Internet-based learning tools and resources. Educators could potentially utilize this format to expand and reinforce classroom-based instructional activities and to extend learning beyond the classroom walls and the normal school day.

Teacher-Facilitated: Teacher-facilitated online learning enables an educator to work with one or more students to provide coachlike assistance with their online course or learning activities. Teachers can facilitate student learning through a combination of face-to-face interactions and exchanges using communication tools commonly found in most Internet-based course management systems. This form of delivery places an expectation on students to take significant responsibility for their own learning. A key role of the teacher facilitator is to ensure that students are engaged and making progress in their online course or activity. Teachers providing the facilitation usually know the subject matter well and can provide content-related instructional assistance to students. This delivery mode can be compared to some independent study activities used in high schools.

Self-Paced: A growing number of online educational products and services can be used by students with no teacher involvement. These products are often referred to as “self-paced” online learning experiences and they usually work best for highly independent learners who regularly demonstrate self-initiative and require little guidance, motivation and direction.

Currently, we are finalizing guidelines and requirements for our Virtual Schools program. Not only will these types of online learning opportunities provide flexibility and accessibility, they are crucial in preparing our students to become global, self-sufficient, 21st Century learners.

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