Spring Lake Park Schools has been offering online courses since 2005, but back then they were an alternative to the traditional school experience, primarily an open enrollment revenue producer, according to Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg.
Now, more in-district students take advantage of online options at Spring Lake Park High School through hybrid learning courses and online courses delivered through GradPoint and, increasingly, Spring Lake Park Schools’ learning management system, Schoology.
“Our hope is to get a majority of our online courses switched from GradPoint to Spring Lake Park-developed online and hybrid courses,” said Jerelyne Nemanich, coordinator of learning technology and professional learning.
A full course catalog through GradPoint is already available, but while those courses do align to state standards, they don’t perfectly match the district’s essential learning outcomes.
So, Spring Lake Park teachers are developing their own online courses, available to students through Schoology.
Nemanich does want to emphasize that “GradPoint isn’t just done by students in isolation,” she said. Content-licensed Spring Lake Park High School teachers do monitor students’ learning.
“We want that support for our students,” said Steve Brady, Spring Lake Park High School associate principal.
This year, some students have elected to take Spring Lake Park health and physical education courses online through Schoology.
School Board Member Michael Kreun raised his eyebrows when he heard about online physical education. He asked how exactly that works.
Students log their activity, participate in discussion boards and complete various readings and written work, Brady explained during a School Board work session last month. They can tailor their activities to their passions.
The online physical education offerings have been popular, but Brady and Nemanich said they were unable to provide specific data on the number of students in the district taking advantage of online options, as enrollment fluctuates greatly from trimester to trimester.
Approximately 30 to 40 students attend school online full time in the district each year, according to Brady.
The course catalog for the 2018-2019 school year includes new hybrid and online course options through Schoology, though not all will likely have a large enough number of students enroll to be feasible, Nemanich said. Online options in the course catalog, other than health and physical education courses, include select English language arts and math courses, as well as U.S. history. Four hybrid courses, where at least 50 percent of the course is delivered online, were listed: biology, college art appreciation, college environmental science and college personal and community health through Anoka-Ramsey Community College.
In addition to online and hybrid learning models, the district has a third model, blended learning, which is “the standard learning model in our district,” Nemanich said.
Blended learning requires students be physically present in class, but some work is still done online with students given choice whenever possible.
Spring Lake Park’s 1:1 digital initiative, which began in 2013, opens up doors for online learning in the district with every high school student issued an iPad.
“It gives every kid that option to participate,” Brady said.
Nemanich acknowledges that some courses better lend themselves to online learning. Bill Neiss’ Opportunities in Emergency Care courses, for example, may never be fully conducive to online learning with hands-on practice and testing a critical component. But hybrid learning could be an option. Ceramics and other art classes are the same way.
Educators want to be open to opportunities that can give students a flexible, personalized learning experience.
While work to create online courses is specific to the high school currently, next steps could include working with the middle school.