Cheryl Vedoe: For example, in programs such as a credit recovery program, the teacher has access at his or her fingertips to data in real-time to show how every student is progressing and what their quality of work is. In our platform, teachers get alerts when there are things that they should discuss with students so that they can engage individually with students. I should also point out that I used the example of credit recovery, but our courses are used in that very same model as the curriculum for original credit in many programs as well as when the student body being served is one that has demonstrated they are not successful in that traditional classroom.
It lets you think that there’s no interaction between students and teachers. What you find teachers do in these settings is bring groups of students together for projects or small group discussions and as I already mentioned, one of the real things that differentiates this model is that the teacher is really engaging one on one with each student as a true learning coach.
The role of the teacher in this model is very different. The teacher is not spending a 45-minute class period delivering content via the lecture model. The teacher is not spending time grading the student work. Online courses can do a majority of that. The teacher is really engaged in those one-on-one relationships with those students providing exactly what each student needs.
Sramana Mitra: That’s guided by this skill gap analysis and personalized assessment.
Cheryl Vedoe: It’s really guided by the data that’s available as to how each student is progressing. We have also evolved our approach to digital curriculum over the last several years to provide a more flexible solution that can be incorporated more readily by teachers into the more traditional classroom instruction. We now have a digital curriculum solution that allows teachers to give students a pre-test and identify the skill gaps. The solution actually can automatically prescribe or direct students to appropriate materials, or the teacher can do that.
We’ve seen things shift from providing these comprehensive online courses where the online course is really what the students engage with and the teacher is the coach on the side. We’ve now also evolved to a model where we have a much more flexible digital curriculum solution that allows teachers to incorporate the digital content into classroom instruction and use it in a model that’s quite similar to the traditional model. That’s really the most significant transition that we’re seeing right now – the need and the desire for classroom teachers to personalize instructions to better meet the needs of all students. What they need is an appropriate digital curriculum to do that.
Sramana Mitra: I have a slightly different kind of question here. We talked about advance placements and struggling students. If you were to look at the use of digital technologies such as yours and the adoption of these kinds of technology in advance placement programs around the country, do you have actual data in terms of penetration rate? Are all schools now using this?
Cheryl Vedoe: Specifically for advance placement, the majority of use of digital or online courses is in a virtual model where school districts are providing access to online courses with virtual teachers so they can create opportunities for students who otherwise would not be able to take advanced placement courses. I think it is still the case that nearly 40% of high schools in the country don’t offer an onsite advanced placement program. That’s because so many high schools are small.
They don’t have enough students who are either interested or qualified to take certain courses. Even if they do, they may not have teachers who are qualified to teach advanced placement courses. What you find is many high schools around the country taking advantage of online advanced placement programs in order to give their students equal opportunity as students in larger school districts.