Take a look around a classroom these days and one will come to the realization that we are living in an age of “mass technology.” Technology is everywhere, at the touch of our fingertips, and the reality is that students in the classroom today know technology better than their teachers. Having grown up with computers, tablets, cell phones, video games and countless other tools, they are quick to adapt to the newest technology while adults often resist the change and cling to what they know.
For some teachers, this means continuing to teach with the same practices that have worked for them for the past couple of decades, but as society changes, schools too must become agents of change. To take it even a step further, if schools want to prepare students to truly be 21st century learners, then schools must be leaders of change. Numerous educational articles have already identified that over the next 10 years, more than half of the nation’s teachers will reach the age of retirement, and recruiting of the next generation of teachers has already begun. This new generation of teachers will bring a wealth of knowledge of technology, social media, and global communication with them into the classroom, and although traditional schools will begin to evolve to incorporate technology on a regular basis, this will still not be enough.
An abundance of students today whose needs are not being met in a traditional school system has resulted in many parents and students turning to a homeschool environment as their answer. In reality, homeschool is often a way to meet other needs that a student may have, however, for many, this does not necessarily equate to a better education.
Gwinnett County, located just northeast of Atlanta, Georgia is home to approximately 165,000 students. Their diverse school system is the 14th largest district in the nation and is home to over 132 schools. However, within Gwinnett County alone, there are close to 10,000 students that are homeschooled. As a result, the Gwinnett County Public School system recognized the need for an alternative approach and has had a form of online education since 1999, making it the oldest online program in the state of Georgia.
GCPS strives to remain on the cutting edge of best educational practices and desires to meet the needs of all the students within the county. What began as an online supplemental program to the schools in the county has grown into a full-time online educational program known as Gwinnett Online Campus, which is open to any student living within the county that is in grades 4-12.
Now in its third year as a full-time online program, Gwinnett Online Campus has discovered that there are numerous types of students seeking an alternative to their education. In addition to the homeschool families, GOC has also discovered many other unique situations that are driving students to pursue an online education. Students that have gone through Gwinnett Online Campus include aspiring athletes, musicians, actors, young entrepreneurs, or students needing to work part-time. Other students such as students with social phobias, young mothers, medically fragile students and students who have experienced bullying in schools have found GOC to be an excellent alternative to attending their traditional schools.
While these are not exclusively the types of students GOC serves, they are many of the reasons why students are seeking to be a part of an online program such as Gwinnett Online Campus. With the full support of the Gwinnett County Public School system, the goal of GOC is to continue to expand both its supplemental and full-time programs to become the best online school in the nation. The development of online education must become essential to educational systems throughout the nation if the goal is to truly reach all students.
Watch this Innovators in Online Learning webinar, where Susan Oates, Development Coordinator at Gwinnett Online Campus, shared her experiences to show your institution how an effective online campus can serve its student community with quality online lessons.
View the Recorded Webinar: When Traditional Schools Just Aren’t Enough – Finding Success Online