When you hear the term “personalized learning,” most people’s minds conjure images of 1:1 classrooms or customized lesson plans, not online education. The common assumption is that learning online means working on your own to complete a series of general courses, in an effort to get credits, a degree or supplemental learning of some kind. Few people would pair the term personalized learning with online high school courses.
The truth is, many online schools have the ability to provide valuable tools and individualized experiences for high school students. Making the online learning an ideal platform for personalized learning.
So, what do we mean when we say “personalized learning?” Every year, iNACOL (International Association for K-12 Online learning) speaks with thousands of online educators, in an effort to get a clear understanding of what personalized learning means to them. They define it as:
“Tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs, and interests – including enabling the student’s voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn – to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible.”
Let’s break this down.
Personalized learning means tailoring to each student’s needs and interests. In an online learning environment, there are several ways that this is accomplished, but it can really be boiled down to two main influences — teachers and tools. At ASU Prep Digital, the personal touch begins with the teacher and success coach assigned to each student. When a student enrolls in a new course, the teacher reaches out to them and their parents with a personal phone call and e-mail.
Throughout the course experience, teachers and success coaches have the ability to customize modules and learning experiences for each individual student — based on their needs and abilities. If a student already understands a topic, they can move onto the next module without having to wait for an entire classroom to catch up. If they need more time, they can take it and work with their teacher to get the extra assistance they need. This allows for a tailored and flexible learning experience.
ASU Prep Digital teachers and coaches are accessible to students throughout the entire semester; connecting with students via chat and text and offering 1:1 instruction when it’s needed most. In addition, teachers host weekly live video discussions. By providing this opportunity to connect in small groups, students are encouraged to ask questions and participate in topic discussions. Therefore, the teacher’s role extends beyond providing assignments and grades. It is focused on helping students to gain knowledge and understanding of their coursework.
The online tools are a close second to teachers, and help to provide a truly customized experience.
New technology, such as the me3 application, uses the student’s interests to help them discover a potential college major and future career path. There are also unique tools made available in every course, allowing for students to connect with their teachers as well as collaborate with one another; such as Adobe Connect, Facebook Live and Canvas modules for coursework and group projects.
In addition, ASU Prep Digital plans to release Virtual Reality experiences as another tool for students to explore subjects such as Biology, Chemistry, History, and English. The VR lessons allow students to interact in their course subject as a character in a larger narrative — collecting facts, taking risks and having fun — all while learning!
The most compelling aspect of creating a personalized learning experience is the convenience for the student — they literally can learn from anywhere and on the schedule that works for them. Learning is not compartmentalized anymore. Students can learn as they live. Today, online learning provides students with the support and motivation to be independent learners and thinkers in this modern-age, while following a curriculum that is tailored to their specific needs and abilities.