By Chevi Rubin
It is an exciting time of year in the life of a Jewish educational professional. Second semester is in full swing, Pesach is over a month away, and we have a few weeks of calm (yes, yes – with the exception of daily Adar festivities) to get our plans for 2018-2019 underway. You may be thinking about experimenting with online learning. Maybe you want to offer a small group of super motivated students a specialized enrichment program, teach Tanach basics (starting from “what is Tanach”) to your transfer students, or give students some agency over subject, schedule, or modality. The list of possibilities goes on.
Whatever it is you are considering, remember these 4 rules for strategic and successful implementation.
“This is fantastic. I want my entire middle school to do it.” – Ploni administrator.
We do too. In year two. Or maybe even year three. Learning about how a new initiative will work in your school is very different from experiencing it. We have seen that the most successful online pilots are with 1-8 students. Take one semester to evaluate if the initiative has been implemented in the most efficient way. Does it require more, less, different manpower than you initially thought? Perhaps the timeline, mode of communication, or designated tech wasn’t the best fit.
This has to work for you. Test, tweak, and expand as you figure out what works best.
You have students, we have courses, perfect!
Enrolling a small number of students the first time around will give you (and the students) the opportunity to figure out your own internal best practices for incorporating online learning into your larger picture. It is equally important to do a real and honest needs assessment in order to determine who are the right students, and what is the right course (or courses) for your pilot. Talk to your potential provider about the students whom you have in mind. What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? What are your goals for these students? What (if any) support do they need on the ground?
No matter how great a product, it will not succeed if not implemented with the right group and for the right reasons. If you’re not sure if it’s the right fit, talk to us.
Many of us have been in your shoes – or near your shoes – and we know how busy things get. While you may be the best person to oversee and plan for the online learning in your school, an administrator is (often) not the right option for the coordination of online courses.
So who is?
That really depends. We recommend appointing a liaison who has some tech savvy, is a proactive communicator, and can serve as a dependable partner. This person will serve as the local “eyes and ears” and their buy-in can make or break the experience for your students. Still not sure who in your school is up to the task? Let’s talk it through.
When we look at the schools where we have had our greatest successes, we see a culture of support. Make sure to keep other teachers, students, and parents in the loop about the online learning taking place in your school. They cannot be supportive if they don’t know what’s going on.
But more than that, it is crucial to explain the benefits of online learning to faculty, parents, and students. Online learning can be used to personalize learning, differentiate, build 21st century skills, connect students to Jewish peers across the country – to name a few. Share the vision and involve others in the plan!
I have met school community members who didn’t know that students in their school were enrolled in our online courses. And they certainly didn’t know that the students were shining. We see amazing growth in student writing, critical thinking, and ability to learn independently. We see students develop into lifelong learners and discover new passions.
Let’s share that!