Most K-12 Schools are embracing online learning as a way to solve problems. Some examples include a need for more advanced courses, more foreign languages, solving schedule conflicts, and credit recovery. The 2015 Keeping Pace Report states that “Millions of students are taking supplemental online courses while attending a physical school.”
Many schools have only a foot in the water (of online learning) so to speak. They are ahead of schools that have not started, but certainly not where they may want to be nor where they will be in three to five years. Some schools like Oaks Christian and Prestonwood Academy have reaped benefits by starting early, learning from failures, and are moving ahead with what works for them. They each have a traditional campus and a virtual campus.
For schools just starting out in online learning, there are 7 habits that a school leader needs to have in order to bring success to their campus and their students. The 7 habits of an online learning leader are:
It is so easy to get caught up in the “tyranny of the urgent” or the complacency of the present. Vision takes a leader beyond those roadblocks. Stephen Harris, Head of School at Northern Beaches Christian Academy in Australia says that his number one role is communicating vision to parents, board members, faculty, and the leader team. You will love seeing that innovative school’s latest learning space in the video made by students using a drone. What is your vision for the school’s future and has the community bought into it.
2. Thinking Outside the Box
Leaders that can solve problems using different solutions than the way it has always been done can succeed with this new tool for learning. Finances, time, learning, and teaching all work differently in online learning than in the traditional classroom. The mission of the school is not something that should change for this initiative or any other. Ask, for example, if your school can reach students that are outside your city or state? Or maybe do like Dr. Mosbacker at Briarwood Christian School and start your Chinese course program online AND establish a sister school relationship in China.
A fortitude to do things in a new way AND to release programs (and maybe people) that are holding up accomplishing the vision. Taking the first step is the hardest. Doingthingsthe same way is easy. People seem to love to shoot down or even work against new ideas. Discussing the barriers to success with online education BEFORE you start is a good practice. A parent in a country in Asia that is hostile to Christian Schools showed determination by gathering other parents to establish a learning center. Using onlinecoursesthey stemmed the tide of families leaving ministry and the country due to the lack of educational options!
4. Entrepreneurial Initiative
“Since online education is “inevitably about innovation, experimentation, risk, and imagination, emerging leaders must have the skills and creativity to facilitate responsible change.” (Stansbury-below) Our own experience at Sevenstar says that leaders that have something good and market it—SUCCEED. Many school leaders have not learned marketing skills, yet. The educational change process has been well studied (Fullan) and hitting all the bases is important.
5. Human Resource Capacity
The habit of getting the right people in the right seats on the bus (Covey) is critical for online learning to succeed. Schools fail when they add the duties of starting or running an online school onto the full plate of an employee. They also fail when they don’t make time for training or if the person selected lacks the capacity to do online work.
It was a full 5 years before the success of Sevenstar was apparent. Change, especially in education, takes time. Individual student success will be quick to see. But programmatic success is another story. Advice that has made sense to many says to “fail quickly.” Success with the entire program will take time and stakeholders should embrace that process up front as opposed to expecting a quick fix. The implementation dip often described in change research will be evident here too.
It takes real, God given leadership skills and habits to accomplish the extraordinary. Currently the frontier of online learning requires leaders and risk takers. It takes the servant leader to see how the school and even students of today will be better because new tools were brought in to accomplish the school’s mission. If different results are desired, then it will take different methods and a leader to get the community to where it should be.
Related article - “What does it mean to be an online learning leader?” By Meris Stansbury, Managing Editor, eCampusNews
About the author: Dr. Beadle helped startCincinnati Hills Christian Academyand the school grew to 1400 students and earned four Blue Ribbons. He left in 2006 to help start Sevenstar, which serves Christian schools and families with online courses and teachers. In their 10 years, they have served over 37,000 students, most of which were in faith based schools around the world.