How SOAR Academic Institute Puts Relationships in Focus

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Matt Daly is the Director at SOAR Academic Institute in South Redford, Michigan. SOAR serves students in grades 6 through 12 with a fully online curriculum and provides support to students through on-site mentoring and coaching. Enrollment for the 2017-18 school year is nearly 150 students, 60% of whom are behind in course credits and working to get back on track to graduate. SOAR has experienced rapid growth since coming into existence, nearly doubling enrollment over the span of two full school years. South Redford School District, where SOAR is located, has an enrollment of about 3,500 students.

The team at SOAR includes eight staff members, three of whom interact with students virtually. The staffing model at SOAR has evolved over time so that all of the team members who focus more on relationship building and coaching are interacting with students on-site. SOAR uses content from different vendors, including OdysseyWare, eDynamic Learning, and Rosetta Stone and, where possible, pairs district teachers with vendor content and aligns the curriculum directly to that used throughout the rest of the district.

When Michigan Virtual™ staff visited Matt and his team to record this interview, Matt talked at length about the importance of building relationships with students in this learning context. He has since kept in touch with Michigan Virtual staff to relay that his program is constantly evolving as it grows and that he and his team are adapting as they learn. Watch the videos below to hear directly from Matt about the ways that relationship building and student support are woven into the structure of the program.

How did the SOAR program come about?
What do school staff do to help build relationships with students?
How do you encourage students to communicate openly with school staff?
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Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute

Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute

The Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (MVLRI) is a non-biased organization that exists to expand Michigan’s ability to support new learning models, engage in active research to inform new policies in online and blended learning, and strengthen the state’s infrastructures for sharing best practices. MVLRI works with all online learning environments to develop the best practices for the industry as a whole.

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