In Plano, Texas, Faith Lutheran High School is offering live online high school classes using a two-way video streaming solution. This concept is nothing new, something that we have seen in many high schools and Universities around the country. While there is not necessarily anything new in the “how,” there is something noteworthy in the “why.” They are using it to reach a new population of students…home schoolers.
Let me explain why I think this is worth noticing. For almost two decades, Universities and high schools have used two-way video conferencing to offer live classes from school to school. This allowed high schools to offer combined classes for expanded offerings. It also provided a new way for Universities to offer qualified high school students the chance to take college courses. This is a technology that provided increased access and opportunity without requiring anyone to explore a significant approach to teaching and learning. More recently, the price of the technology dropped enough that it became possible to also connect students from home with these live face-to-face classes. This is used, for example, in instances where student health concerns might prohibit a student from attending in person for a time. With these instances, the technology was used to further support the otherwise traditional operations of the school, serving mainly the students who were full-time students at that school or a partner institution. It was not used to reach a different population of students. What is new about this latest offering at Faith Lutheran High School is that they are using the two-way video as a tool to offer unbunded services. This is a private tuition-based school and instead of offering a single package service (full tuition and full participation in the school or nothing), they are offering an à la carte menu. Choose the courses that interest you, and use them to support your otherwise personalized home school curriculum.
I am aware of other instances where private schools are reaching out to home-based learning communities, offering part-time tuition packages, access to certain extracurricular activities, or free access to the school resources (like a computer lab) when they are not used by school personnel. All of these also speak to the growing awareness of schools that the demand for unbundled, personalized learning is a present reality. The fastest growing sectors in K-12 education are those that are the most personalized, catering to the distinct needs and/or interests of each learner (namely distinct charter schools and home schooling).
I continue to argue that this unbundling provides us with a glimpse into the future of k-12 education, especially k-12 education that provides an alternative to traditional public schools. Separate all of the distinct attributes of a given school and imagine a model where families and students can pick and choose from those services, paying only for what they use (in the case of private schools). This requires leadership that is willing to follow the trends and respond to them with courage and creative practices. It also requires an ability to see schools as partners with families and learners, collaboratively designing unique experiences for individual learners. It is not simply a professional prescribing an educational intervention. I suspect that this shift in thinking will be a greater barrier for some than any potential technological limits.