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K12 administrators can design learning from students’ perspectives. In this blog post, read how virtual and hybrid learning models built with students in mind can help educators consider varying notions of individual student success and achievement.

Student-centric education emerges today as a leading K12 model in a post-pandemic world. Rapid virtual learning adoption in recent years showed educators gaps in existing learning systems. These same trials refocused the objectives of classrooms to increase equity for the diverse learners inside them. In a student-centric model, virtual learning provides autonomous students with more choices. This means asking what students want to learn, how, and on what terms.

Indeed, the student-centric model has a great premise: If the focus of education is students, it follows that students should focus on their education.

Yet when it comes to education design, integrating student wants and needs at school starts with an even more fundamental query: What are they?

Research on the topic–like this 2020 article published by the International Journal in Educational Technology–suggests broadly that quality, flexibility, and satisfaction champion most student ideals. Other research suggests peer relationships and community strongly motivate K12 student success. Differently, school administrators, staff, and teachers juggle their own needs alongside learners they work to inspire, including, for example, curriculums, measurable achievement, enrollment, and more.

Designing from students’ perspectives thus arrives at a critical juncture: what educators build may differ from what students need or desire. Student-centric design wishes to understand these differences better. The gaps here are not all-or-nothing contentions. Instead, they serve as prompts to help administrators differentiate expectations, goals, and objectives for a more equitable program that thinks with all students in mind.

Here are strategies to consider to facilitate student-focused learning at your school and recommendations for how virtual learning can help.

A Unique Curriculum for Unique Students

Personalizing education means making it unique. One suggestion for creating more uniqueness in K12 education is crafting student profiles with “individual” goals, objectives, or preferences. While students make individual contributions to their peers and community–and by extension, the world–they also learn and develop in unique ways. In thinking with individuals, student-centric design asks educators to mold education to fit different needs and learning styles. And one way to accomplish this is through an expanded curriculum.

Virtual learning strategies strengthen not just the consideration of expanding class offerings but also its implementation. Blended learning with a broader curriculum appeals to a more diverse student body that pursues nuanced learning aspirations. Through increased class choices, students affirm not just what they want to learn–but they decide who they want to be. Beyond expanding the core, unique class offerings or learning opportunities can extend to select or in-need students who pursue custom learning outcomes like advanced study or tutoring.

Beyond the curriculum, thinking about students as individuals reframes a school’s nuclear responsibility. A 2021 article from EdTech Magazine suggests that while virtual learning affords flexibility, it also transitions physical schools away from systems of normative operations. In addition to courses, student-centric design includes how schools are run with guidelines and procedures to facilitate learning.

With that in mind, rethinking education about uniqueness becomes more about unlocking individual success than administrative efficiency. That’s less about “the fourth-grade class” and more about “the fourth grader.” This school of thought questions if what’s best for the school is always best for its students.

Monitoring Student Participation and Achievement

A different tenant of the student-centric model is instructional strategies that monitor close relationships with students. In addition to teacher one-on-ones and improved teacher-parent dialogue, this includes tracking student achievement. The thought is that if teachers can closely follow achievement throughout the year, they can make adjustments as needed. Importantly, adjustments can occur at the individual student’s learning level.

But if educators wish to track achievement, they’ll need strategies and tools for measuring it.

One recommendation for K12 schools is to incorporate virtual learning modalities that help provide data and insights into student learning and performance. This implementation can be done in select touch points or classes designed to help test or advance student engagement data. It does not have to replace an entire in-person learning system. For example, platforms such as Class.com help track synchronous student talk time and participation. Other Learning Management Systems (LMS) offer performance and completion data for assignments and discussions.

On that note, student data dashboards are emerging as tools to help educators better understand what’s happening behind the scenes–and what occurs in the passive learning zone and work time between assignment due dates. Passive student monitoring emphasizes non-academic needs outside the classroom, which this article by Michigan Virtual describes in greater detail. In addition, student monitoring extends to getting to know students personally. This means supporting their development beyond formative assessments in virtual or physical spaces where educators can consider more factors contributing to student learning success.

Is It You–or Your Students?

When designing your educational model this year, ask yourself, who are you thinking about? Is it you–or your students? This question is at the heart of student-centric redesign efforts. And it is what K12 educators and administrators should consider while striving for equitable education.

And to power your redesign efforts, virtual learning tools can help. Administrators can implement student-centric learning and achieve greater results with an intentional plan incorporating virtual options.

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