By Katelyn Bausman
Center Grove Global Campus, a new online learning initiative of Center Grove Community School Corporation, is in full swing. The program meets a growing need for education in new and innovative ways as students seek increased course choices and flexibility in how they learn.
Global Campus is open to Center Grove High School (CGHS) students, as well as students in grades 9-12 from other schools including public, private, charter, or homeschool. Students may choose to take online courses to advance in their studies, take courses that could not previously fit in their schedule or are not otherwise available, participate in special interest courses, recover credits, or lighten their load during the school year.
The benefits for students are many: to prepare for college and their professional future in an increasingly digital world, be in control of their own learning, review class materials anytime anywhere, improve their technology skills by using state-of-the-art learning tools, and receive more personalized attention from their teacher in a smaller class.
Global Campus courses fall into one of three categories: Ignite, Revive, and Niche. Ignite is the first year’s offering of 16 courses, 9 of which are taking place this summer as well. A blend of required and special interest courses, Ignite is for students earning initial credit (meaning they are taking the coursework for the first time). The eight-week summer Ignite courses kicked off June 3 with 180 students. Approximately 200 students are enrolled in Ignite courses during the school year starting August 1 for 18 weeks.
Launching summer 2014, Revive is a credit recovery program designed to help students get back on track for graduation. Niche will offer special interest, non-credit courses to anyone interested in learning new skills, such as resume building and digital photography. Niche targets a variety of learners including students, parents, and community members. The launch date has not been set.
Global Campus students use cutting-edge technology tools, including Google Docs, VoiceThread, and Canvas, to communicate, create, and actively participate in the course activities. Canvas is a robust learning management system that allows teachers to deliver online, blended and technology-enriched courses. VoiceThread technology enables students to create interactive presentations and comment on each other’s questions and projects. Other Canvas features include a built-in collaboration tool, discussion forums, screen sharing, and video chatting. Students will be able to hear and see their fellow colleagues in the online learning community as they interact on projects, provide feedback, and have group discussions.
“Just like in real-world settings, students will work with others to execute projects and receive their peers’ feedback,” says Joanna Ray, eLearning Director for Global Campus. Courses have been designed with collaboration in mind, intentionally promoting social interaction as a crucial part of learning. “Learning does not happen in isolation. It is more meaningful when students can connect ideas and collaborate.” Smaller class sizes encourage students to foster collaborative relationships. Parents can even request a Canvas login to monitor assignments and receive text message reminders from teachers.
Global Campus is not intended to replace the rich learning environment of a traditional classroom or the high school experience but rather supplement both with new opportunities for learners. Online learning in K-12 has typically been used for students recovering credits. “We want to change the perception of online learning because the potential is much greater than how we currently utilize the technology,” Joanna says. “We want to give every high school student an opportunity to explore learning this way because they will learn valuable skills to take with them in post-secondary experiences.”
Online learning has come a long way. “The tools are much more sophisticated, allowing for some things to be done in online learning that cannot be done in a brick-and-mortar classroom,” Joanna says. Blended learning (a combination of online and traditional classroom learning) “provides students with the best of both worlds by allowing them to learn independently and engage in meaningful face-to-face dialogue.”
Joanna is passionate about the research behind the program, including Global Campus’ partnership with Indiana University. “We want the research to inform our next steps for the future growth of Global Campus,” she says. The design of the program will continue to be intentional from a holistic approach using best practices. “High quality learning is our foremost priority.”
Seventeen CGHS teachers designed the first online courses. The team completed professional development training to better understand how to construct an online curriculum and teach students in online and blended environments. While Global Campus gives students increased flexibility, teachers are very involved in the learning process. The courses are instructor-paced with targeted deadlines to keep students on track. Students needing help can meet with their teacher virtually or in-person throughout the course.
CGHS students only pay a $25 technology fee/course for Global Campus; the fee is waived for students receiving financial assistance. Students outside of the district pay $295/course plus the $25 technology fee. CGHS students receive a letter grade and credit for completed courses; students outside of the district receive a letter grade to transfer to their school.
As Global Campus continues to grow, the future is limitless. Besides developing the Revive and Niche course offerings, Joanna says the program will expand beyond CGHS. “Our goal will forever be meeting the needs of our students first and foremost, but we want to benefit learners all over. Moving forward, we intend to grow our course offerings, strategically offer courses that can most benefit learners and streamline the processes currently in place. We will also be looking for more outreach opportunities and district partnerships because there is great potential when joining forces with other districts.”
Joanna says they strive to be recognized nationally as a leader in quality online learning. “There are some wonderful districts in Indiana who have been offering online programs at some capacity, but we feel our approach is very unique. We’ve been contacted by several districts that are interested in our approach, and we are very excited to share what we’ve learned so far.”
Joanna has high hopes for Global Campus. “I really hope it changes the perception of online learning as an inferior way to learn because what our teachers have created over the last year is truly amazing. It is such an engaging, rich learning experience, and I don’t think it’s going to be like anything our students have ever experienced before.”
For more information on Center Grove Global Campus, visit globalcampus.centergrove.k12.in.us. You can browse and enroll in course offerings, read FAQs and take a short quiz to see if online learning is right for you. You can also contact Joanna Ray, eLearning Director, at email@example.com.
Katelyn Bausman is a lifelong Southsider. She is a freelance writer/editor and handles communications and event planning for an international ministry. She and her husband, David, enjoy calling Center Grove home.