Submitted by David Knoche, Principal
Note: The information in this profile represents SY2013-14 unless otherwise indicated.
Falcon Virtual Academy started as a full-time virtual school in the fall of 2009. Although the school maintains a fully online program for home-schooled students, it also added a blended-learning program in the fall of 2010. It hopes to include more on-campus and face-to-face learning opportunities in the future as Colorado’s legislation changes and allows for more flexibility.
Blended Learning Program
Program model: Enriched Virtual
Students divide their time between attending a brick-and-mortar campus and learning remotely using online content and instruction. How students divide their time between on-campus and off-campus learning depends heavily on student choice and specific student schedules created by Falcon Virtual Academy.
How much time do students spend on campus in this blended-learning program? How much of this time do students spend learning online or with educational software?
Students complete the majority of their coursework remotely. The amount of time students spend on campus depends on the students’grade levels and individual schedules.
K-6 students are scheduled for on-campus learning on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but each student’s schedule is different. For example, although some K-6 students may come to the brick-and-mortar campus on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and stay for the entire school day, the majority of K-6 students come to brick-and-mortar campus on only one of those days and typically stay about three hours.
Students in grades 7-12 have a bit more flexibility and can choose to attend the brick-and-mortar campus for the majority of their learning everyday except forTuesday.
On average, across all grade levels, school administrators estimate that students spend 80 percent of their time learning online or with educational software.
Briefly describe the offline components of this blended-learning program.
The offline components of the blended-learning program include a number of different modalities. The school places a heavy emphasis on project-based and experiential learning, which means that students frequently take field trips and work on small group projects and assignments. The school also has a science lab where students can participate in hands-on assignments and lab work that are completely offline. Students also receive some individualized and small group face-to-face instruction from teachers, participate in guided and independent reading, and use iPads for video or assignment creation.
How are the online and offline components of the program connected to provide an integrated learning experience for students? How do data from different learning modalities inform each other?
Falcon Virtual Academy uses the online student data to inform its offline learning modalities and the offline testing data to fine-tune its online curriculum so that its curriculum addresses areas in which the entire student body is struggling.
How does this blended-learning program fit into the rest of the students’ school day?
The blended-learning program fits differently into the school day depending on the grade level of the students. Students in grades K-6 work remotely on their online coursework on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. On Tuesdays, they typically come to campus for three hours to participate in project-based or experiential learning periods in the core subjects. On Wednesdays, some students come to campus to participate in small group or individualized tutoring groups, which the school schedules ahead of time, based on the individual needs and progress of students.
In grades 7-12, students progress through their online curriculum remotely on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. Students also have the option of working on their online curriculum at the brick-and-mortar campus on those days, but most students choose to work off campus. On Wednesdays, the school offers optional small group or individualized face-to-face instruction to support the students’ progress through the online curriculum. On Thursdays, students in grades 7-12 spend the day on campus working on project-based or experiential learning opportunities in each of the four core subjects.
What are the teachers’ roles and responsibilities in both the online and offline components of this blended-learning program?
In the online components of the blended-learning program, teachers are responsible for determining the sequencing of the online curriculum, teaching a live virtual class once per week, and analyzing student data and assessments in order to better inform teaching and curriculum. In the offline components of the program, teachers are responsible for conducting the small group or individualized tutoring sessions, planning the project-based learning assignments and/or field trips, and working with students and parents to make sure that students are mastering the concepts and progressing through the curriculum.
What other adults are involved in this blended-learning program (e.g., paraprofessionals, learning coaches, counselors) and what are their roles and responsibilities?
Falcon Virtual Academy employs a “Response to Intervention” Coordinator who is responsible for helping teachers analyze and sort assessment data as well as put interventions into place for students who are struggling. The school also employs student support coaches who are the first-line of defense for students who are struggling and need additional and more individualized support. Finally, the school employs a guidance counselor to help students with a wide-range of issues.
Briefly describe the set-up of physical space for this blended-learning program.
The school building is located in an office park and school administrators designed the school to look like a combination of Google and Starbucks. The school has no individual classrooms except for the science lab.Instead, students are spread throughout a huge open space and use mobile surfaces such as tables, couches, and benches for their work. The furnishings within the building can be easily moved around.
How are students grouped within this blended-learning program?
Student groupings are heterogeneous and it is possible for students in different grade levels to be grouped together in small group tutoring sessions even if they are working on different content. Students are also grouped at random when working on collaborative projects.
Do students have some element of control over the pacing of their learning? Are students tied to a semester-based course schedule or can they complete courses at any time? Briefly describe any requirements or benchmarks in place to ensure student progress.
Students in grades K-6 have complete control over the pacing of their learning. All courses are mastery-based, which means that students can’t move on to the next unit without first demonstrating mastery of the unit. Also, if students want to work quickly and complete all of the coursework at a certain grade level, Falcon Virtual Academy allows them to move on to the next grade level at any time during the school year.
Students in grades 7-12 have some element of control over the pacing of their learning in that they can progress as quickly as they want, but the school also uses pacing guides to ensure students don’t fall behind. The school operates on a trimester schedule and expects its students to take assessments at the end of each trimester.
Describe the academic results of the program, using quantitative data where possible.
The blended-learning program at Falcon Virtual Academy is still relatively new so there isn’t a lot of useful quantitative data available. Administrators expect state testing results back within the next month or two and believe those results will paint a more telling picture of the academic results of the blended-learning program.
What have been the biggest obstacles in implementing this blended-learning program? What has needed adjustment along the way?
The school has faced three major obstacles in its implementation of a blended-learning program. The first obstacle is that current legislation in Colorado doesn’t offer much flexibility in the way of blended-learning programs; to expand the school’s blended-learning offerings, legislation in the state will need to change first. The second obstacle is balancing teacher workload and making sure that teachers still have enough time for instruction and curriculum development. The final obstacle the school has faced is convincing stakeholders that the blended-learning program at Falcon Virtual Academy should not look the same as a traditional brick-and-mortar school environment, as many of the students had left brick-and-mortar school environments in search of learning options that better suited their needs.
Have you or are you planning to scale your program model to more/other schools?
The school is in preliminary stages of exploring the logic of opening a campus in the northern part of the district to reach more students. The school is also looking to expand its blended-learning opportunities for students, while pushing full-time virtual school options to the backburner.
Name: David Knoche
Email: [email protected]