Submitted by Kathryn Kelly, Executive Director Note: The information in this profile represents SY2011-12 unless otherwise indicated. The eLearning Cafe is now known as I-School.
eLearning Café is a non-traditional, “blended” learning school located in Incline Village, Nevada, at the north shore of Lake Tahoe. Its Executive Director (Kathryn E Kelly, DrPH, MEd) continuously researches and identifies the best combination of educational content providers and professional educators to provide individualized learning experiences that are truly exceptional. This innovative approach to teaching allows students to embrace an individualized, mastery-based learning process while maintaining the flexibility and focus required to support superior academic outcomes, specialized learning needs and extracurricular interests that may not conform to traditional academic calendars or environments.
Blended Learning Program
Program model: A La Carte
Students enroll in online courses from various providers, mostly as supplements to their face-to-face courses at brick-and-mortar schools. It employs several on-site teachers and paraprofessionals to provide students with a la carte in-person tutoring and small group sessions.
eLearning Café provides space and support for students desiring to enrich their education through online course options. The focus is primarily math, science, and English for grades 6-12, but there are additional offerings for K-5, college, and adult learners as well. About 80 percent of K-12 students that frequent the Café also take classes at a nearby public school. Many of these students walk to the Café during free periods to work on online courses and others come after school. The Café is open seven days a week, 12 hours a day. The café is staffed by several teachers, both credentialed and non-credentialed, who act as facilitators of instruction. These teachers devote nearly all their time to explaining new concepts, demonstrating in labs, answering questions, grading papers, and encouraging success. In a blended environment focused on subject mastery, the teachers are relieved from the administrative tasks of documenting attendance, grading simple quizzes, meetings, and other activities that detract from the joy of teaching and time to do it well. Students progress though online courses, with the aid of the Café’s teachers, at their own pace. Parents pay for online courses a la carte. eLearning Café prices courses based on the content provider’s fee plus a premium to fund operations. Parents pay separately by the hour for face-to-face tutoring and other services. eLearning Café makes a concerted effort to: identify high-quality online content and choose courses that will best meet student needs; keep close communication with parents via weekly emails or visits; and help increase understanding and acceptance of blended learning in the community.
The ability to absorb information and master material at their own pace has instilled a noticeable increase in students’ confidence. Students who have not succeeded in a traditional school environment seem to be thriving in this flexible and personalized environment. Many students and parents have expressed ardent satisfaction with increased student progress. Due to the relative infancy of eLearning Café’s services, extensive quantifiable results are not yet available. However, among math performance in grades 3-12, the Café has documented significant gain in grade level, topics learned, and proficiency versus time spent on certain concepts.
On the horizon
To provide for truly differentiated learning, eLearning Café currently uses content from seven different providers, which causes administrative complexity. Therefore, they hope to find a truly integrated, all-encompassing Student Information System that will allow all instructors, students, parents, and local schools to keep track of student progress. They also hope for blended learning to be more fully recognized and supported in Nevada state law. In 2012, eLearning Café plans to implement additional tools and resources to help English learners increase reading comprehension and fluency. They also hope to more fully document and quantify outcomes in the next year. The Café also plans to design and build an additional community learning center to provide space for quiet instruction, guest lectures, computer instruction for seniors, small group tutorials, Space Science for Schools, Lego Robotics. This space will also include a science lab to teach science at all grade levels.