Imagine a learning environment where the student is in charge of his or her own education. Picture a place where the student is in control of how they approach the curriculum. For a student, this likely sounds almost too good to be true. For a parent, this idea sounds a bit far fetched as well. Believe it or not, this unconventional approach to education does exist and is gaining in popularity.
It’s called student-centered learning, and it’s opening up incredible educational pathways for today’s students.
Student-Centered Learning at VLACS
Virtual Learning Academy Charter School, also widely known as VLACS, employs a groundbreaking student-centered learning model that gives students an opportunity to customize their learning experience in a way that best meets their needs, in a setting that engages their interests, talents, and passions.
As a virtual public K-12 school, VLACS puts its students in the driver’s seat of their own education—allowing them to steer their learning experience in the direction of their choosing. This personalized and flexible approach to learning provides students with the flexibility and direction they need to be engaged and successful learners.
This is achieved through dedication and close adherence to the following four core principles.
1. Personalized Learning —Traditional courses, while effective, are not the only way to learn these days. At VLACS, students are able to customize their learning and create personalized learning plans by blending courses, projects, or experiences, work in an almost limitless number of combinations.
For example, students can master competencies by completing a project, or through experience at an internship. The beauty of personalized learning is students have complete freedom to customize their learning experience by choosing any pathway or combining facets of each. Students are also able to create their own competency group (aka course credit) and learn through a combination of any of the following:
- College Courses
2. Competency-Based Learning —At VLACS, students are welcomed into a competency-based learning environment in which expectations are held constant while time is a variable. This means that a student might master one competency at a faster rate than his/her peers but require more time and support than his/her peers to master the next competency. In VLACS’ competency-based system, success is defined by meeting high expectations and not by how quickly a student can learn; failure is not an option.
At VLACS, a traditional one-credit course is comprised of about eight different competencies. Students can master competencies by choosing a single learning path such as courses, projects, teams, or experiences — or they may blend these options together.
3. Learn Anytime, Anywhere — Online education is helping redefine the traditional idea of the “school day” and instead is allowing students to embrace an “anytime, anywhere” approach to their education. At VLACS, students are not expected to be in front of their computers at a certain time, rather they are empowered to engage in their education at a time that works for them.
Students at VLACS can use digital or online tools to learn from any location at any time of day. But perhaps the biggest differentiator between and other online learning programs is students can expand their universe of learning to include internships, travel, independent study, work, theater, community service, etc.
4. Students Take Ownership — Online education today is all about ownership. VLACS believes ownership comes through choice and decision making—which in turn empowers our students to choose ways to learn that best match their interests, talents, and passions. A student that fails to take ownership over his or her learning is less likely to embrace student-centered learning. This customized approach helps students become excited about learning and engages them in the deep thinking and hard work that follows
VLACS CEO Steve Kossakoski addresses the tenets of student-centered learning in an interview with CompetencyWorks.org.
“As an online school, we have a great deal of freedom to innovate, so, as we designed our services based on the tenets of student-centered learning, we worked from the perspective of what’s possible when the limitations of a time and place-based system are removed. We realized that until you provide students with the opportunity to design their own learning pathways, they won’t really own their learning. Offering learners a choice of courses and projects provides kids with some ownership. But how much ownership is it, really?”
The key to a personalized, student-centered learning approach, according to Kossakoski, is engaging the student in a conversation and asking, “What do you want to do? Where and how do you want to learn?”
“Learners may want to learn in a traditional class, online, in the community, through self-study, or by participating in a project. We are trying to dig deeper into what it means to personalize learning and to extend the capability of our school to fully personalize education. We don’t want learning to be bound by the courses we offer.”
Kossakoski said he believes an online school like VLACS is the perfect place for student-centered learning to thrive.
“We live in exciting times where technology and society are rapidly changing, and my hope is that we seize the opportunity that student-centered learning provides to transform education in the interest of doing what’s best for learners.”
Another key element of student-centered learning is access. At VLACS, everyone—whether it’s students, teachers, or parents—has access to the learning landscape through innovative online technology. This helps further engage the student, making them aware that they are not in it alone.
Don’t let the common myths of online education deter you from learning more. Attend an open house to learn how our student-centered learning approach is helping students of all abilities earn a high school diploma.