A more modern online learning experience

You spoke. We listened. Here’s a sneak peek at how we’re updating our online student courses in Fall 2020 to provide a more modern learning experience to meet the unique needs of each school and each student.

Flexible scheduling options for every school calendar

Schools and parents will now have MORE options for course start and end dates each term. This increased flexibility will allow you to choose a schedule that fit your school’s unique academic calendar and each student’s unique learning needs.

New and improved learning management system

We are switching to Brightspace for our Learning Management System. This new learning platform will provide a more modern, user-friendly, and engaging learning experience for our students (as well as the adults who support them!).

Flexible scheduling options

Here’s a little backstory on this one: In the past several years, many Michigan schools have applied for waivers to create their own unique academic calendar. Because of this, having flexibility over scheduling has become a top priority among schools enrolling students in online courses.

Every one of our online courses is taught by a highly qualified, Michigan-certified teacher, so we had to get creative to ensure whatever system we devised would result in fair scheduling for each and every instructor, but we’ve since come up with a solution that we’re excited to share!

Our new calendaring structure for the 2020-2021 school year offers MANY different options for start and end dates for student courses. Schools and parents can select whichever start or end date option fits best for their academic calendar or their specific situation.

Which courses offer flexible start and end dates?

The majority of our online courses offer flexible scheduling options, including:

  • High school plus courses
  • Middle school plus courses
  • Essentials credit recovery & alternative learning courses
  • Summer courses

There are a few exceptions, however, that allow for only one start and end date option due to unique scheduling constraints, including:

  • Advanced Placement (AP) courses
  • Dual enrollment courses
  • Chinese language courses

Tips for selecting start & end dates

How you go about selecting your start and end date for each student depends on your school’s unique calendar.

For example, if you are a school who needs to have your students finish their first term before winter break begins, you might first look for the end date that would be best for your students and work backwards from there. 

These different start options provide you with the flexibility to enroll all your students at the same start time OR give individual students separate start dates based on their personal needs and situations. 

Once you have enrolled a student in their online course, you will not be able to change the end date you’ve selected, so exercise caution when choosing your students’ enrollment windows!

Bonus: Smarter student pacing guides

As an added benefit, thanks to this new scheduling model, our student pacing guides will now be more adaptive and accurate.

Automatically calculated based on the student’s unique start and end date, these pacing guides will alleviate stress by providing a more accurate picture of a student’s progress in their online course.

These pacing guides will be housed with our Student Learning Portal. 

A note about additional start dates

On our 2020-2021 calendar page you will see a note at the bottom of several calendar tabs that says, “Additional start dates available.”

What this means is that, when you enroll students in our Student Learning Portal, you will see an even longer list of start and end date options than those listed on the calendar page. 

Some of the later options in this list will give students less than the full term length to complete their course work. 

For example, with our 20-week (semester) courses, some of the later start date options on this list will give students 19, 18, 17, 16, etc. weeks to complete their course rather than the full 20. 

It is possible for students to still be successful on a tighter timeline, but it’s best to ensure the student is prepared for the more rigorous demand of the faster pacing. 

Before enrolling a student, we recommend that you check your enrollment window carefully and, if you select one of the later start options, be sure the student is prepared for faster pacing.

New & Improved Learning Management System

By Fall 2020, the majority of our online courses will be using Brightspace as their learning management system. What does a learning management system do? It’s the platform in which students access their online lessons, complete assignments, and interact with their peers and teachers. 

This transition to Brightspace will begin in the Summer 2020 term, during which some of our courses will be housed in this new platform. 

The Brightspace platform will provide a more modern online learning experience for our students and the adults who support them. Here are some of the ways it will do this:

Visually appealing & intuitive course layout

One thing we love about Brightspace is how visually appealing it is and how intuitive the navigation structure is for users. Images and icons help guide the eye through the web interface so students can easily locate their courses, assignments, etc. When a student visits a page, it is automatically marked so that they can easily determine where they have left off in their coursework. The more modern look and feel of this system is sure to resonate with both student learners and the adults who support them in their online courses.

Mobile friendly & device agnostic

When picking a new learning management system, it was important to us that we find one that is mobile-friendly. Using Brightspace, students can access their online courses at any time on any screen size, whether it be a laptop, tablet, or a smartphone. For today’s learners, this is an important feature to ensure their learning experience is adaptable enough to fit their lifestyle.

Inclusive and equitable access

Brightspace has won awards for accessibility features that allow ALL learners to engage with their system. The Brightspace platform is in compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA standards and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, 1973. View Brightspace’s accessibility standards →

improved tools for engaging students

In this new system, there are more tools for our online teachers to create engaging quizzes, assignments, and discussion boards. These are important features that keep students engaged with their online coursework and connected with their peers.

More ways for students to connect

Each online course  will now have a “homepage” that allows teachers to easily communicate with students using an activity feed, which can be used to share reminders, upcoming assignments, or discussion questions. Students can comment directly on these posts to engage with their teacher and their peers.

Better tools for monitoring student progress

Brightspace offers improved tools for teachers, parents, and mentors to monitor student progress. This is important for the adults supporting students to be able to keep them on track for completion and to intervene when the student needs extra support.

Reduced downtime

With this new system, there will be less of a need for scheduled downtime for maintenance. We’ll still be taking the system offline for the winter holiday break, however, so teachers and students alike can spend time with loved ones.

How do I use Brightspace?

Explore the following articles from our Knowledge Base, which offer instructions for accessing and navigating Brightspace as a student, mentor, or affiliation user.

We'd love your feedback!

We're excited to share these new changes for Fall 2020 with you because we know it will improve the learning experience of our students and make it easier for schools to fit online courses into their schedules. But we'd love your feedback! If you have any thoughts, please share them with us by filling out this brief survey.

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