Online and blended learning builds college and career readiness for K-8 students
I’ll never forget the concerned look I got from the first former colleague I told about my new work with full-time virtual public schooling. It was more than a dozen years ago, but I can still see her face when she realized that this comprehensive school program served all grades. “Kindergartners – online?” she spluttered. I only wish I had had some of our award-winning K teachers and their students with me then to show her the reality: Online and blended learning helps many K-8 students and can put them on a path toward college and career readiness.
Virtual schools around the nation like those supported by Connections Education utilize online and blended learning for thousands of K-8 students. It all starts with a focus on the learner and their unique needs. For children who learn differently, who have passions beyond school, who are bullied or ill, or who just need a more personalized approach to learning, full-time online education can be exactly what they and their parents have been searching for. These students are loving learning online, especially with the combination of engaging content and personal attention from their online teachers. And I would argue that even students who attend more conventional brick-and-mortar elementary and middle schools can benefit tremendously from online and blended learning too.
As schools across America strive to ensure college and career readiness for every single child, online and blended learning resources can make a real difference. Here are three ways online, blended, and digital learning approaches put K-8 students on the path, even at such a young age, to be college and career ready:
- Access to a Wide World of Learning: Research has shown that young children are adept at mastering second and third languages; but rare is the elementary or middle school that can offer more than the basics. Would your second graders like to try Mandarin while your fourth grade students experiment with Latin? With online world language courses, they can, even if each language only has one or two takers, far too few to make a face-to-face teacher a practicality. What about coding, robotics, digital art? All are possible with online courses.
- “Better Than In-Person” Experiences: Online learning has the power to offer students experiences that would be impossible face-to-face. How impactful it is when first graders in Kansas collaborate with their peers in India to invent solutions to the worldwide trash problem? Or when students tour the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the middle of the night, from thousands of miles away? These and others are real experiences that K-8 students are engaged in as you read this.
- Becoming a Self-driven Learner: Of all the foundational knowledge and skills our students need for success in college and career, few are more essential than self-management. It can be a rough transition from a world in which parents and teachers plan your schedule, set your goals, and enforce your work ethic, to one in which all of that is up to you. We hear over and over again from graduates of online programs about the robust self-management skills they gained from working at their own pace and being accountable for their progress every day. Even students who took just an online course or two during their K-12 careers feel they have an edge when they get to college and into the working world.
I’m looking forward to digging deeper into this topic at our upcoming webinar, The Future Starts Now: How Digital Learning Can Help Your K-8 School Address College & Career Readiness, April 19, 4 p.m. ET. I hope you will join us!
About the Author
Prior to joining Connections Academy, Dr. Hoge served as executive director of curriculum and instruction for Catapult Learning, overseeing the development of their K-12 instructional and teacher training programs. Additionally, she was executive director of education for eSylvan, where she directed the development of the curricula for synchronous online delivery. Dr. Hoge spent more than 15 years in public schools as a speech-language pathologist, curriculum developer, and supervisor of reading/language arts. As a certified speech-language pathologist, she provided services to PreK-12 students. Dr. Hoge has served as a clinical supervisor and adjunct faculty member at Loyola College and adjunct faculty member at Towson University, and serves on several school advisory councils. She has co-authored numerous resource materials for teachers and speech-language pathologists. Her academic credentials include a B.A in Speech Pathology and Audiology, an M.S. in Speech Pathology, and a Ph.D. in K-12 Educational Leadership.