Online Courses: How Do You Compete?
Vol. 16 No. 2
Keeping up with technology has become a chief concern for many schools, often representing a major portion of their budgets each year. Private-independent schools, competing with public and charter schools that typically have more available funding, find this particularly troublesome.
A relatively new wrinkle to technology access is the escalating implementation of online courses. A recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics, Characteristics of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools in the United States: Results From the 2015–16 National Teacher and Principal Survey, indicates that many public and charter schools have already moved in that direction. (Note: This is NCES’s first time collecting data on the use of online-only courses.)
According to the survey report, of the 17,100 traditional public schools that offered online courses:
- 59.8% offered “one or a few courses” online;
- 27% offered “some courses, but less than half of all courses” online; and
- 4.8% offered “all courses” online.
Of the 2,000 charter schools that offered online courses:
- 51.6% offered “one or a few courses” online;
- 23.5% offered “some courses, but less than half of all courses” online; and
- 13.9% offered “all courses” online.
Perhaps not surprising, 62.3% of rural public schools offered “one or a few courses” online. Although not referred to in the report, it’s safe to assume that many homeschoolers take advantage of online courses.
What does this mean for your school? Does this mean even heavier competition from public schools in the future?
Well, it all goes back to the strength of your school’s mission, your sense of community, and your Portrait of the Graduate.
Most parents and their children come to your school looking for a “full experience”—the sense of community and social interaction that extends beyond your curriculum. The emphasis is on the “whole child.”
Certainly, technology has become a part of the educational equation, but it is far from the major factor for most private schools. Sports, arts, drama, teamwork, classroom participation—these are all elements that your school can provide that are largely absent from online coursework.
Consider ISM’s concept of the Portrait of the Graduate—a list of five or fewer items comprising short descriptors of the student you expect to have developed over the years that he or she spends at your school. Examples of such descriptors may include:
- ready to perform with distinction at the next academic level;
- committed to lifelong learning, both inside and outside educational (institutional) contexts;
- conversant with the ethical implications of the school mission statement;
- competent in the use of technological research channels;
- committed to advancing the fine arts;
- eager to engage diverse communities;
- committed to community service principles; and
- able to embrace a lifelong wellness lifestyle.
With your Portrait of the Graduate in mind, will online courses truly enhance the lives of your students? Providing online courses may indeed “fit” your school’s mission and be a factor in your Portrait of the Graduate. (Online courses may also be a legitimate source of auxiliary income, further meeting your mission.)
If so, this should be a topic for consideration during your next strategic planning/strategic financial planning sessions. If not, do not add online courses simply to compete with public schools. Focus instead on your school’s strengths and the programs that successfully meet the needs of your families and students.
Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Private School News Vol. 11 No. 6 21st Century Teaching Without Technology? Yes!
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 9 No. 5 How Does Your School Measure Up to the Competition With Technology?
ISM’s Quick Tips Podcast Portrait of the Graduate to Validate ROI
Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 41 No. 13 Faculty, Facilities, and Technology
I&P Vol. 35 No. 3 The 21st Century School: Curriculum and Technology
I&P Vol. 36 No. 16 The 21st Century School: Technology and Small Children