ASU Prep Digital CEO, Julie Young, Interviewed on the TeachThought Podcast

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The TeachThought Podcast

Episode 18 with Julie Young

Using virtual education, ASU Prep Digital is working to remove barriers that prevent or inhibit high school students from moving on to higher education. In this episode of the TeachThought Podcast, Drew Perkins is interviews Julie Young, the Deputy VP and CEO of Arizona State University.

Throughout this episode on the TeachThought Podcast, we hear about a lot of different barriers that students face when it comes to higher education – including the rising cost of college and universities paired with the requirements for above-average grades, test scores, and a high number of extra circulars. Students are being put under an almost constant pressure to perform higher and exceed expectations in every area of study. All while participating in sports, student clubs and/or their local community. What Julie really highlights in the interview is the simple concept that — not all students are perfect — but that shouldn’t make them ineligible for higher education.


“I was wondering if you could talk a little more about test scores being a performance measure. And if you were able to redo the system and sort of throw out how you get into college and grades, test scores and I know that I have a friend who has a daughter who is looking at colleges and who at this point, grades are being examined and ACT scores and other metrics and I am not particularly convinced that those are good metrics. So what are you seeing, or what you like to see in a perfect world, as sort of the pieces of metrics that should allow kids to get into colleges or universities?”


“Great question.

I don’t know that I think that all of those measures are necessarily, not necessary to take a look at. I think what is unfortunate and very sad in many situations is that if each one of those is considered gospel and is required for the package, you have students who are very, very capable but they don’t test well. So you will have a student who has exceptional grades and maybe a very high achiever in terms of their extracurricular activities, such as student government. They are a very solid contributing student…but maybe their ACT is poor because they don’t test well. Many, many colleges have the criteria that you have to check each box and when you don’t check one of the boxes, you are excluded

So, in my opinion, I think that…well, I am not one that believes that tests are evil and that we should not have any, I feel like we have gone overboard in the last ten years and we have too many. When you and I were kids, we had one a year. You took your test and off you went.”


“Ah, it was CAT testing, I think?”


“Yes! It was!

It was a validation point; it was a piece of information. It could give a teacher an opportunity to go “yes, this is matching up, the student is on track” or  “oh, there is a red flag here I might want to dig a little deeper. “

So I think what is kind of unfortunate, is that we have coupled all of these pieces and parts in such a way that is a student doesn’t check one box then they are not eligible.

I think that there is some fairly encouraging movement that they are close to almost one thousand accredited colleges and universities that have stopped using ACT and SAT scores to admit their students, which I think is very encouraging because it does give a student the opportunity to represent themselves in a holistic way as opposed to “well if I cant test well in the ACT then I’m done.”

So when we think about what we want to do in business and we read collectively always the discover your strengths, which is a wonderful view of how we should be capitalizing on our strengths instead of spending all of our time trying to strengthen our weaknesses. And I think about how these students enter college, so to answer your question:

I think all of that information is important to look at but I would love to see a more collective, objective view. That would allow students to make up for areas of defecate in other where areas of strength.”


ASU Prep Digital works hard to combine high school and university courses through virtual education, helping students capitalize on what matters most, their true strengths and talents. But in this podcast episode, Julie truly captures the key opportunity students should have — the ability to demonstrate a level of balance and passion in their path to higher education.

To hear the full episode, visit the TeachThought website or listen on iTunes

Learning Agility: Harnessing the Power of Failure

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Think about your adjustment period when you first entered the workforce: colleagues driving you mad with their opinions, work-life balance challenges, micromanaging bosses, team meeting tangents, fire drills—and so much more. Add to these challenges the fact that today’s market requires fast, nimble response to market demands through new processes, systems, or technologies. Our global marketplace thrives on change and innovation but offers little time to learn what is needed to achieve either! How do we prepare students for a workplace that demands consistent performance in spite of these challenges?

Of course, academic development matters, but the realities of today’s fast-paced work environment fuel the need for what researchers are calling “learning agility,” and the implications are huge for traditional K-20 learning environments. The Harvard Business Review defines learning agility as “a mindset and corresponding collection of practices that allow leaders to continually develop, grow, and utilize new strategies that will equip them for the increasingly complex problems they face in their organizations.”

Essentially, learning agility correlates with emotional intelligence, but it is exemplified by learners who are not afraid to take risks, to fail, and to quickly incorporate feedback into their next step.

Perhaps most important, agile learners are not defensive. To be open to learning, they can’t be closed to feedback. But, how do we begin to teach the idea of “knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do?” And how do we infuse learning agility into our curriculum and our teaching practices?

I believe that teaching learning agility goes hand in hand with student agency. It’s about letting our students generate new ideas, take risks and fail, and then guiding them, through feedback, to recalibrate, try again, and grow resilience. Speaking of feedback, how about we teach our students to ask for it, or even better, teach them to see the value in a 360-degree approach to feedback? What if we teach our students to offer and receive valuable feedback from their teachers, their peers, and from tech-based learning systems? From there, what if we coach them to avoid a self-justifying posture? Think about it. These are skills than many adults have yet to master, yet they are critical to surviving the continuous change foisted on us via a globally connected, ever-evolving world. We need to foster classroom cultures that value the continuous improvement necessary to survive such a world. We need students, and eventual employees, who are insightful and curious, who do not feel pressured to give perfect answers, and who have the resilience both to keep learning and to apply what they are learning as they go.

This kind of learning is powerful…it’s authentic.

And it isn’t going to happen with a uniform instructional approach where we ‘teach to the middle’ in a classroom of 25ish students. Cultivating learning agility demands out-of-the-box, meshed-up learning experiences. I think my favorite aspect of learning agility is that it reassures students who beat to their own drums. When we value agile learners, we value “different” and understand that innovation doesn’t always come from status quo or standard responses.

Insert the hard part: measuring learning agility. This is inevitably difficult to implement. It is the opposite of linear progress and well-defined content areas. It is ambiguous and relies on the emotional intelligence needed to generate students who can put themselves into uncomfortable situations for the very purpose of growth! It requires the learner to want and know how to look at a problem from multiple angles. That kind of learning requires confidence, learning agile instructional frameworks, teachers, and administrators.

But if the outcome leads to a pioneer-like workforce capable of continuous cycles of learning and confidence-building to realize success, count me in to help translate learning agility into our education processes and systems.

Just thinking about how messy it is to teach like this jazzes me because it offers opportunities to let go of presuppositions and teach in the moment. Even more significant – it compels us to focus on student-centered teaching. Instead of moving on to the next set of objectives because that’s what the lesson dictates, teachers who value learning agility capitalize on failure and encourage students to pivot from the original plan and harness the value of the failure before moving on. The changing landscape within the workforce demands agility and it will likely start with educators and educational leaders themselves becoming more learning agile. So teachers, why not get our agility on in the classroom?

i. Improve Your Ability to Learn by J.P. Flaum and Becky Winkler, June 8, 2015, Harvard Business Review

4 Tips for Making Friends in Your Online Class

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Online classes are made up of a community of students, just like any traditional classroom. Thanks to social media, interactive online tools, and digital curriculum design, students have plenty of opportunities to help facilitate making friends with their virtual classmates.

Being proactive about forming friendships goes a long way when you learn online. Here are four tips for building friendships with your digital peers. 

1. Connect on social media. 

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter are already cornerstones of interaction for friends IRL. In fact, a third of the 76% of teenagers who use social media say they spend time with friends through social media every day. Social networking apps are a key place where friends interact and express themselves, so connecting with classmates through these online platforms is a great way to build deeper relationships and make new friends outside of school.

Social media is even being embraced by online professors, who encourage students to introduce themselves to classmates via Instagram, or engage in course-related discussions using Twitter or Google Hangouts. Connecting with your peers who are comfortable doing so is a good first step to getting to know one another better and making friends in your online course.

2. Join a virtual club. Or, better yet, start your own!

There’s a giant community of online students out there, and many of them are members of student-created clubs and organizations centered around professional development and student networking. These groups often host video lectures featuring faculty members or industry professionals, and sometimes even plan events where members can meet in person. If you and your classmates are interested in similar subjects, then getting active in, or even leading one of these clubs, is a great way to get to know each other. But what if you can’t find a club to fit your passions or interests? Go ahead…start your own! Making friends usually begins with having shared interests. Many online high schools, including ASU Prep Digital, will provide faculty advisors to help students establish new student clubs. Taking the initiative is not only good for your social life, it’s also a great resume builder for your college apps.

3. Use the resources available through your online classes. 

Thankfully, most of today’s virtual classrooms have been developed with student collaboration in mind. Many online courses have discussion boards and live video lessons built into their interface, which students are encouraged to actively use. These tools are not only useful for collaborating and sharing information, but can also be used for non-academic group chats where classmates can interact casually and bond.

4. Plan an in-person meetup.

If you happen to live near your classmates, you can use the tools and resources mentioned above to organize a physical meetup. Having shared experiences away from the academic setting is an ideal way for classmate relationships to evolve into friendships. If you and your online classmates are scattered across a region, then planning a day-trip to meet up or work on a project together at a central location can be an exciting and unique shared experience.

Remember, making friends isn’t always easy and can take time — even in a traditional classroom — but it is certainly untrue to think that being in an online environment removes all opportunities to make friends.

Are you are virtual high school student? If so, we’d love to hear your pro-tips for staying connected with your classmates. Visit our Facebook page and let us now some of the ways you make friends in your online classes.

Why Do Students Choose Blended and Online Schools?

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Last year, Getting Smart posted an article outlining the outcomes of a paper developed by The Foundation for Blended and Online Learning (FBOL).

In summary, the FBOL set out to discover why students and families are choosing these innovative school models and how they are finding out about the options available. In the paper Why Do Students Choose Blended and Online Schools?, developed with the Evergreen Education Group, FBOL explored the common motivations behind the choice to enroll in a school or program other than a traditional brick-and-mortar setting. Through a series of stakeholder interviews, school snapshots, and data drawn from a variety of sources, the paper offers a look at the academic, social and sometimes difficult personal reasons students throughout the country turn to alternatives to their local public school.

Why do students choose blended and online schools? Report

According to the report, “a reasonable estimate for students attending online and blended schools is between one and two million students, or roughly 2–4% of all students in the country. More than half of all states allow online schools that draw students across district boundaries; perhaps 350,000 students attend these schools.”

To learn more and access the paper on “Why Do Students Choose Blended and Online Schools?” click here



Article originally published by

3 Tips for Helping Your Child Succeed in Their Online Course

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Why is it that in elementary school parents show up in droves to volunteer baked goods, chaperone a field trip or attend a PTA meeting, but by high school, it’s like POOF… parents take a back seat and are more hands off? Well, it’s time to reclaim the front seat! Parent engagement in high school is crucial in helping students succeed, especially in an online course. 

Here are our most important tips for helping your child succeed in an online course:


Create a “Dedicated Learning Space”

Will the couch work? Not so much! While your child might pick a busy place in the home, ideally he or she will need a dedicated work space that is devoted to their online learning. No dedicated office space? No problem! Setting up something as simple as a card table in the spare bedroom with a notebook, pencils and other needed supplies will suffice. The point is that your child actually “goes to school” in that space, literally! One of our ASU Prep Digital students rides his bike to a local Starbucks once a week to do his work, and on another day spends time at his dad’s office to complete school work. Finding a learning space that works for your child may take some trial and error, but it’s worth the time to find dedicated space.

Set a Weekly Schedule

Sounds so simple, right? For many online students, keeping a schedule is one of the hardest transitions because, in a traditional school, your time is set by the bell. Helping your child set up a weekly schedule is time-consuming, but after a few weeks of helping, you can then empower them to do it themselves. A weekly schedule should be very detailed, down to the exact hour they will work and what they will achieve. For example, here is a typical Monday schedule for one of our full-time Freshmen at ASU Prep Digital:


  • 8:00-9:00am: Alarm goes off, shower, breakfast, chores
  • 9:00-10:00am: Attend Algebra 1 Live Lesson
  • 10:00-11:00am: Work on History project and turn it in today
  • 11:00-12:00pm: Lunch
  • 12:00-2:00pm: Call Mrs. Safi about English paper due Friday and work on rough draft
  • 2:00-3:00pm: Complete Unit 1 Lesson 2 in Leadership
  • 3:00-4:00pm: Attend History Live Lesson
  • 4:00pm: Read e-mail messages from school then free time!

Part-time students typically carve out about 45 minutes a day during the week or a few chunks of time over the weekend to complete coursework. Regardless of whether they’re taking one or all of their classes online, the key to success is helping your child not just block out time for each subject but also set specific assignments and projects to complete. Each online course will typically provide a pace chart, which will help to determine their weekly schedule. Be engaged, follow up with them, and make them show you what they’ve done. Trust, but verify!

Need help getting started? Download a copy of our free weekly calendar template here. Just print, fill the in blanks and you’re off and running!

Student Communicating with Instructor on Their Mobile Phone


Communicate, Communicate, Communicate (Call, Text or Email the Online Instructor)

“Say what? But my child is 17 years old!” So what! Call the teacher!  

At ASU Prep Digital, the teacher will most likely call you before you even realize your child is placed in an online course, but if you haven’t spoken directly with the teacher yet, pick up the phone! Opening the lines of communication between the instructor and you is a crucial component to helping your child succeed because YOU know your child best. In that first conversation share everything you know: How does he learn best? Does she have an IEP or need accommodations? What does he like to do outside of school? Most importantly, find out how you—the parent—can best support your child. Is there a pacing guide you can print out? Are there live classes held, and if so, what day and time? Are there extra help sessions available if your child gets stuck?  

The fact that you’re reading a blog post about how to help your child succeed is a good indication that you are already supporting and advocating for their academic success. If your child hasn’t already done so, I thank you. They’re lucky to have you! Kids (even high school kids) need support. They really, really do. While the tendency to be more “hands off” in high school is the norm these days, continue to empower your child to succeed.

The best way to start is with a clear schedule. Download a copy of our free weekly planning calendar here.



Originally published September 18, 2017

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Online Course

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If you’re in high school and you’ve never taken an online course, you probably have a hundred questions. Like, “what are online high school courses really like?” Or “will it be easier or harder than taking a course at school?” We all know hindsight is 20/20, so we asked a few real current and former online students about their experiences. Here are the top things that they wished they’d known before starting an online course.

“There are real deadlines”

And they’re no joke. For most online courses, you get assignments or tests that are due each week (just like in any other class at school). The difference is, you’re responsible for keeping up with your schedule. It’s important to keep a planner and organize yourself, so you always know when your next assignment is due. One of the biggest things we heard from every student was how important it was to set aside time to, not only finish their assignments, but to turn them in. When you have to turn in an assignment by 6 PM, you probably shouldn’t wait until 5:59 PM to submit it. With online learning, you need to accommodate for the unknowns, like technical difficulties or slow wifi connections. So, waiting until the last 30 seconds to turn in your work isn’t the best way to go.

“Your teacher will call you and you can call them”

Most online high school courses also come with teachers – and they’re pretty involved. They’ll probably set up a regular call with you, but in between, they’re always available via text, call, email or even chat. Be sure to note their office hours so you always have that handy, but they’ll always return your calls. It’s in your best interest to stay connected to your teacher so that when you do have a question, you know how to reach out. Many students we talked to said they saved their teachers contact information in their phone right away, so they were always an easy text message away.

“It’s harder to fall behind”

In a traditional classroom, if you zone out for a few minutes you’ll completely miss whatever your teachers just said. There’s no pause or rewind button, so you’re left wondering if you missed something important. With online learning, zoning out for a few minutes, or taking a quick break to check your friends new Insta Story, doesn’t mean you’ve missed any material. You set the pace and have the freedom to pause the lesson. Making it harder to fall behind. This was something that several students told us they didn’t think about but is one of the biggest things they appreciated about taking high school courses online.


student taking an online course outside


“You’re responsible for your time”

In an online course, you’re responsible for managing your time and your schedule. Seem daunting? Well, think about it this way. In high school you’re really not in control of your schedule – the bell rings and you move onto your next class. But, once you get to college that is all going to change. From day one, there are no bells and no teachers telling you where to be and when. Managing your time is all on you. So, taking an online course now really prepares you for that. Meaning, once you get there you know what you’re doing. Being more prepared when you get to college means you can manage your time better and have more of it for yourself.

“You have to engage with other students”

When you think about taking an online course the first thing that comes to mind is, working alone. The reality is, when you take an online course you’re likely still going to have to work with other students. Whether it’s through group projects, online discussions or video study groups – you will have to interact and work with your online classmates. It’s cool to learn how to do that in an online setting, but it also takes some work to figure out. Especially when you’re working with students from all over the world.

Do you have more questions? Take a look at some of our other blog posts, like this one on the common fears of online education. Or this one on how to decide whether or not online learning is right for you. We’re also available via phone or chat. Contact us anytime. 

Top 7 Things They Don’t Want You to Know About Taking Online Courses

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“Take a course to get ahead!” They say… but really, what’s the deal with online high school? Virtual schools are everywhere, but most people aren’t telling you the real reasons to try it.

Don’t like to wake up early? Online courses are ready when you are.

No joke. Taking online high school classes means you work when, where, and how you want. Not an early bird? Log in at noon—your English class is ready for you. Have plans tonight? Log in to get some work done when you get home—your math class is always open. Schedule flexibility is one reason so many students and families are taking their high school classes online. 

Online classes can help you graduate early.

By taking additional credits alongside your high school work, you have the opportunity to graduate early, which means more time to pursue what you love. Maybe you want to work more hours, start college sooner or maybe you’re the youngest pro tennis player ever and you need more time to practice. Take some online classes and you can work toward earning your high school diploma and graduating as soon as you’re ready.

Online does not mean working alone.

It’s not the 90s anymore—online learning doesn’t happen in an isolated underground computer lab. When you take an online high school class, you join a community of learners. You have a real teacher, there are real students to collaborate with, along with clubs and activities to take part in. This connection can feel deeper than traditional courses because in an online school much of the teaching is one-on-one, it’s all about you. 

You can boost your GPA!

Many online schools offer Advanced Placement, Honors and even dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment college-level courses, which can give your GPA the boost it needs to be competitive for college. If your local school doesn’t offer these courses, online high schools (like ASU Prep Digital) may be a way to get the weighted credit that can really help out your GPA.

On the other hand, if you’ve failed a high school course, online learning means you won’t be held back.

Everyone makes mistakes. Before online high school classes, failing a class could have meant being held back and missing out. Now, by retaking that dreaded class online, you may be able to replace the course you failed without repeating it at school.

Online learning helps students figure out how the adult world works.

Much of adult life happens online. From banking to interviews and even remote work, people today have to figure out how to use so many different systems to get through life. Students who take online classes learn how to navigate unfamiliar situations and working environments like they’re a breeze! Taking a virtual high school course means that you’ve got a jump start on adult life—it’s an online class benefit that they don’t tell you about. 

Get a head start toward college.

Want to get ahead of the competition when it comes to college admission? Start college courses while you’re still in high school. A few online high schools offer dual enrollment courses, allowing you to receive college credit from a local community college. You don’t have to drive to your local campus anymore to get the benefits. Better yet, ASU Prep Digital offers concurrent enrollment, allowing students anywhere in the world to be enrolled in both high school and Arizona State University classes at the same time. These University courses count for high school and college credit. And because ASU is a Level 1 Research University, the credits transfer anywhere. Completing these online courses will prove to any college admissions staff you’re ready for the challenge and will save you time and money when you arrive on campus with some of your courses already done.

We understand if you still have fears about taking online courses. While online learning isn’t for everyone, taking even a few virtual high school courses can help you catch up, get ahead or jump start your GPA. Educate yourself about your options and what online learning is really like.

ASU Prep Digital is one way to get there. Learn more, at



Originally published on September 7, 2017