Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools all across the globe converted to distance learning. While many schools and students struggle to adapt, Renton Prep is proud to say that students have found advantages to highly-adapted distance learning in this new environment.
In a recent KOMO News story, some of our students expressed the advantages of distance learning and the advantages it offers.
Why some Students Choose Distance Learning
When we reopened in August of 2020, we gave students the opportunity to choose between distance learning and in-person instruction. Not every student chooses distance learning, but there are many students who appreciate the flexibility it provides.
Distance learning has provided students an opportunity to acquire life skills in addition to accelerating their learning. Remote students are experiencing the necessity to collaborate and solve problems with other classmates, rather than just independently completing their work.
This interdisciplinary process teaches them to balance different formats of learning and communication, as well as the valuable skill of digital communication. Ultimately, developing new skill sets they can take into the real-world.
Online education allows students to build a schedule that will work best for them. The flexibility allows students to take charge of their education and time their school work accordingly.
“I think remote learning, getting to work independently, gives you more time to make more relaxed schedules so your day just goes by smoothly,” 7th grader Chloe Culver said to KOMO news. Chloe is fully remote learning and recently completed a full school year of work in only one semester.
Renton Prep is able to do this by partnering with the online platform Red Comet. Its efficient structure keeps our students and staff connected, motivated, and takes some pressure off of teachers. In addition, the website offers an extensive list of courses for our students to choose from.
Perhaps the most noteworthy benefit of remote learning that students enjoy is the ability to move grade levels ahead. This is tied with the flexibility that students have to create their own schedules and work at their pace. Students are able to take this opportunity to press forward and finish a year of schoolwork in just one semester.
The students who are accelerating their education with online learning are then given a choice to either move on to the next grade level content or pick up high school electives that they are passionate about.
In the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year, 37 students in total finished the coursework for the entire year, enabling them to move on to new challenges. This includes a group of middle school students who are now ready for high school course work in the second semester, and 12 of them have deleted to move to 9th grade English Language Arts.
This is a huge difference from what a lot of schools are doing during the pandemic, which is cutting back curriculum. Sometimes, schools are halving the amount of content for the whole year because delivery is too challenging with remote. However, the partnership with Red Comet personalizes learning to allow students who are ready to go ahead to keep moving.
Examples of Excellence
For example, two students, Krish and Kush Juneja are taking their 10th grade courses fully remote. Currently, they are finishing numerous classes such as Anatomy and Physiology, Geometry, and AP Government and Politics, to name a few. They intend to pick up more electives in the second semester to replace the courses they completed early.
“There’s so much time throughout the day,” Krish said to KOMO News. “It’s not hard to work through the courses. With distance learning there aren’t as many distractions, so I feel it’s a lot easier.”
This gives them the chance to start exploring interests that they can focus on when they get to Running Start next year. Both of them plan to participate full time in the Running Start program and pursue careers in computer science.
Combatting Disadvantages of Remote Learning
However, distance learning still presents some challenges for students and staff. Many of these can be mitigated or limited by additional support for distance learning students.
Lack of Face-to-Face Communication
A primary disadvantage to remote learning is the lack of face-to-face communication, which many distance students can miss. To counteract this, we’ve devoted ourselves to creating a HyFlex environment for our students, which now includes micro-groups that meet in person.
We livestream our classes, assignments, or outdoor field trips routinely to keep remote students feeling connected to those who are on campus. Students in the classroom have remote partners and live stream their work so the student at home can see it, ask questions, and direct their partner to move the camera or object in certain directions. This allows students at home to communicate and collaborate with the kids who are in-person,
In addition, distance-learning students have been invited to outdoor field trips. For example, a hike at Echo Peak for distance-learning students at the end of the Fall semester.
One example of student success during distance learning is Rayna — a new student at Renton Prep. She has consistently engaged in HyFlex learning as she’s excelled in her 7th grade courses. Whether it is math investigation projects, STEM collaborating with in-person classmates, and even chat conversations in live-streamed documentaries, Rayna has been hands-on learning from home. She is taking the full opportunity our school offers even as a fully remote learner.
Rayna’s hard work and accelerated pace allow her to take high school-level courses if she chooses after finishing her 7th grade courses. Rayna is using this time to continue building a solid foundation, engage in the hands-on at home, and get to hear and connect directly with NASA experts. She recently was on a call with Stephen C. Smith, who works at the Kennedy Space Center.
Distractions during Distance Learning
One disadvantage of distance learning for students is facing more distractions at home than when they are at school. We encourage students to establish a routine at home to keep them focused on their academics during those allotted time. Alternatively, students can attend our small in-class sessions to concentrate on their studies among other distance learning students.
In the Fall, we offered micro-groups of students — 5 or less — on campus to be in the presence of other students while working online. This keeps students from feeling isolated, but still safe and with plenty of distance between each other.
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Successful Distance Learning at Renton Prep
The success of our students — whether distance learning or in-person — is our priority. That’s why we are proud to share how our students have turned the current situation in a global pandemic into an opportunity for growth.
We prioritize our students’ education and safety of our students and staff. As this semester continues, we intend to continue revising our teaching methods to ensure a safe school year in 2021.
Contact us today to learn more about our school, educational practices, and innovative environment. Enrollment applications for the 2021-2022 school year are currently open.