Estherville Lincoln Central High School took one more step toward the future of online education Monday when it heard a presentation from principal Frank Christenson on a proposal for required online courses.
Noting that some states, such as Massachusetts and Wisconsin, already have online learning requirements, Christensen said he was proposing a change in the way the district educates students. "All the districts around us are one to one. We're moving toward that," Christensen said, proposing a new schedule with common eighth-period study time and an online learning component.
Noting that current study halls are not being used by a majority of students, Christensen said he and assistant principal Brad Leonard had determined that just 26.9 percent of students were using study halls for their intended purpose - studying. He said the rest of the students were listening to music, talking to other students or napping.
Christensen proposed having one study hall a day - eighth period - with students going to an online learning center on opposite days from PE. There would be no study halls periods one through seven.
The reason for the change, said Christenson, is that he wants to prepare students for a one-to-one environment (in which students have an iPad, notebook or other wireless device to aid in learning.) He said the district needs to prepare students for careers that haven't even been invented yet.
The online learning center would be in the production lab in the media center, said Christenson. The center could incorporate a new laptop lab with 40 computers and would be monitored by online teachers.
Possible courses could include tech etiquette, computer applications I and II, personal finance, health I and II, general business, art appreciation, nutrition, sociology and film studies. Christenson said the more courses that were offered online the more the district could loosen up its schedule.
Christenson said students could also take courses from Iowa Online which offers hundreds of courses. Students who meet requirements to take Post-Secondary Enrollment Option courses can also select from among 300 courses offered by the Iowa Community College Online Consortium. And 37 ELC students are now signed up for 90 courses at Iowa Lakes Community College.
Christenson said the advantages of online learning were flexibility in scheduling, allowing the high school to offer students in seven periods what it currently does in eight, increasing options for students.
The advantage to teachers would be that every teacher would have an eighth-period study hall, teach six periods and have one hour prep. He said when the high school gets one-on-one technology it would be with an experienced cadre of staff - all comfortable with equipment - and hopefully in two to three years.
Advantages to students would be 24/7 class access to online courses with the opportunity to earn more credit.
He said almost all online courses would also be offered face to face.
Other changes Christenson is proposing include open campus for juniors and seniors and eliminating the tutor room in the media center since students would be in study hall eighth period when they could go directly to teachers of the courses in which they were having trouble.
Mari Miller Burns asked if all faculty would be required to teach online, and when Christenson said they would not, she asked why students were being required to take courses online but faculty were not. She noted an attrition rate of up to 50 percent in online courses she teaches at Iowa Lakes.
Christenson said the online courses at ELC would start at a slower rate. He said he was also researching student success in online as compared to face-to-face classes.
Burns said Iowa Lakes has students take a Learning Styles Assessment before taking online courses. She suggested to the board that students take the assessment and that the board obtain statistics on success rates of high-school students in online courses.