As a new educator, I divide my time between writing and developing courses with Virtual High School and Hekademia and occasional teaching with a conventional school board. Some people say I have the best of both worlds, while others say I’m crazy. However, I think that I am incredibly fortunate to be learning so much…okay, and a little bit crazy too. My experiences teaching in the traditional system with semesters and timelines have led me to reflect on the limitations within synchronous environments for student learning.
One of my most recent experiences in a traditional board was working with students who had taken ill and required home instruction to complete the semester. I had the opportunity to work with two students, each of whom had vastly different histories, health issues, and goals, but my job was the same: to help them achieve their credits before the semester came to an end. What a high-stress environment for a student already dealing with so many other struggles! Not only did they have to deal with being out of school and their emotional and physical issues, but now they also had an unrealistic deadline to meet.
With deadlines for credit achievement looming, I find myself reflecting on the work I do as a curriculum developer at Virtual High School. Creating physics courses for an asynchronous environment has led me to ask, Why do we issue credits to students based on their ability to meet our expectations by the end of a semester?
The asynchronous environment at Virtual High School allows students to move through the courses at their own pace, completing content as quickly or slowly as required for their own understanding. This idea is further nurtured with the adoption of the ACe model in Hekademia, where students are not only able to work at their own pace, but they are also provided extra support and loops of content so they can truly take the time needed to hone and extend their understanding. Students have the flexibility to come and go from the courses at their own pace and convenience, and they can spend extra time on difficult concepts with the remedial instruction and extended learning activities.
Benefits to Asynchronous Learning:
- Long term CollaborationAlthough students may not always be moving through a project at the same speed or working on identical assignments, if the activities are designed properly, students can instead pick up where another left off to continue moving a project forward.
- Student-Centered PaceIn the asynchronous model, we truly put the student before the schedule.
- Learning PortfoliosWhen students are able to work through courses at their own pace, they are able to demonstrate their growth over time, keeping exemplars of their learning process that they can take with them after high school. They can create projects that have real-world application and show them to employers.
- Development of Learning SkillsTime management and organization are two skills that are imperative in the workplace and in the successful development of a life-long learner. What better way to foster these skills than in a course model where students self-regulate and take initiative in managing their own learning?
I look forward to continuing my work in building personalized and welcoming courses where the students’ learning experiences are placed before the schedule, and I challenge you to try it in your own practice.