The biggest barriers in implementing online courses are
communicating offerings and enrollment qualifications to
students and finding room in the schedule. District administrators are working on contract language that allows students the flexibility they need but keeps them from laying off
staff because of small class sizes. Staff can supervise students
taking online courses and take on the role of the mentor, and
the online class has its own highly qualified teacher doing
the grading and answering content-specific questions.
Pleasant Hill still needs to develop clear procedures for
students who are not completing work or who are earning
low grades in an online course.
Crow-Applegate-Lorane District: 310 Students
Next, the staff at Lowell High School is thinking about
using a commercial online mathematics curriculum that
can be tailored for each student. Some of the teachers on the
Lowell staff have embraced online learning and are developing course assets on their own. But building a full course is
a long-term process, so teachers are beginning by hosting a
collection of websites and reading resources. As they gain
more expertise developing a blended model using the Moodle course management system, they discover they have
many options for instruction that were not available before.
Pleasant Hill School District: 840 Students
Pleasant Hill School District was already using an online
math curriculum before we began working with them. This
year, the district is using online courses for students who
have been exposed to content already but need to make up
the credit and demonstrate more mastery. Online credit
recovery courses have had mixed results at Pleasant Hill,
and school officials cite “less motivation” as one reason why
some students are not as successful.
Pleasant Hill’s credit recovery model involves students
attending the online course every day for 50 minutes in a
computer lab with a trained mentor.
In addition to credit recovery, some students take courses
online for enrichment or because they want to take courses
not offered by staff, such as German, Japanese, Mandarin,
physics, or computer programming.
Mentor Inga Perham says, “Online courses allow us to
provide courses we can’t offer due to a smaller staff, and it
allows us to compete with nearby in-town schools.”
Crow High has been using online courses since the school
became part of our Online Options program in fall 2010
[see “Right on Course,” L&L, August 2011, pages 26–29].
In addition to providing courses that would not normally
be available, such as world languages, Crow-Applegate-Lorane uses scaffolded courses with a variety of students,
including those on individualized education plans (IEPs).
Sean Bradshaw, the primary online mentor for high
school students at Crow, acknowledged that it’s easier the
second time around. “Students understand how to navigate
courses and work with mentors to pay special attention to
pacing,” he explained.
Bradshaw has set a baseline expectation of completing
6% of the course each week, and he keeps a close eye on
how students are progressing.
Online courses not only provide content knowledge,
they also teach kids technology skills and prepare them for
the future, Bradshaw said, adding, “We need to train these
kids for their world.”
Establishing a collaborative structure to remove barriers
was essential to getting the program started. We assumed
the financial risks by setting up a dedicated fund to pay for
course seats in AP, regular, and credit recovery courses. The
number of seats was proportional to the total number of stu-
dents each district had compared to all students in the coun-
ty. This allowed districts to try different courses with various
student populations without spending their own money.
After the first year, the ESD continues to pay for credit
recovery courses, and the districts each have unique models for using the other courses. The ESD kept the credit
recovery courses so we could continue to monitor progress, develop best practices, and obtain a bulk purchase
Removing the financial barrier allowed students and staff
to try things out and gave them time to develop policies
and procedures. Now, at the beginning of the second year,
principal Ron Osibov and staff have worked together to
Superintendent Susan Nakaba and Crow High School Principal
Ron Osibov have engaged the entire staff to make agreements
about implementing online courses.