Alaska’s Learning Network
Alaska’s Learning Network: Making Education More Accessible
Alaska’s Learning Network (AKLN) improves student achievement through online learning and professional development opportunities by providing:
- Distance courses for students that are taught and supported by highly qualified Alaska teachers,
- Professional development coaching including on-site and off-site support and training.
- Resources for Alaskan educators
- Coalition of all 54 Alaska School Districts managed by the AKLN Advisory Board (made up of superintendents)
Alaska’s Learning Network continues to develop courses for high school students statewide, responding to the needs of districts and specifically targeting courses that meet requirements for the Alaska Performance Scholarship. In the 2012-2013 school year, AKLN will offer 21 courses developed by Alaskan educators and sponsored by Alaskan school districts.
AKLN works with the Alaska Staff Development Network to provide learning opportunities for teachers that promote technology integration, digital literacy, and successful online pedagogy. The mission of the Alaska Staff Development Network (ASDN) is to improve student achievement by providing researched-based distance learning and face-to-face professional development programs for Alaska’s teachers and school administrators.
Alaska’s Learning Network resource database provides quality model learning objects available 24/7 for free, to all Alaskan educators. All 54 Alaskan districts have free access to the Alaska Digital Sandbox. Objects created by Alaskans for Alaskans can receive the “Made in Alaska” logo. All objects are under the “Creative Commons” license for open sharing, downloading, editing, and adapting to personalize instruction.
Organizational structure (administrators, educators, and staff with hierarchy of decision-making process):
Originally started with a 1-year competitive grant, a RFP (Request for Proposals) was issued to Chatham School District, one of 54 total public school districts in Alaska. During that first year, a Director was hired, an Advisory Board was formed and way to offer distance courses was organized. This infrastructure allowed for continued efforts to receive funding from the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development (EED), districts, and grants to collaborate efforts in brokering services between districts. AKLN (Alaska’s Learning Network) is not a separate virtual school. It is set up as a way for all the districts to coordinate efforts without giving up either their students to another school or any of their base-student allocation. This infrastructure is guided by recommendations from the Board to move forward with activities as funding allows. Now, in the third year of AKLN, with funding from the legislature, AKLN is reworking the management structure. AKLN is managed by a 15-member advisory board comprised of Alaska superintendents in the five regions:
Currently, AKLN is housed at the Alaska Council of School Administrators, the overarching structure for all of Alaska’s superintendents. AKLN’s full-time registrar is an Alaskan teacher, and ensures successful registration and coordination between districts, as well as supports teachers who are piloting AKLN courses. Professional development is offered, both face-to-face and online through the Alaska Staff Development Network. Training has included a cohort of teachers to pilot courses, webinars for current teachers who want to integrate more blended learning in their existing classes, and future efforts to support teachers and administrators.
The role of the State of Alaska in regulating AKLN:
The State of Alaska Department of Education & Early Development (EED) has provided funding and support for AKLN. Prior to the grant issued, EED ran a series of four, face-to-face gatherings of all the districts to receive input and ideas for solving Alaska’s need for coordinated distance education. The grant was based on the ideas presented by this group of up to 60 participants. The initial intent was to have one district address the collaboration. It was a larger issue than anticipated, and AKLN has morphed into a statewide collaboration with 15 board members helping guide and direct the activities. EED oversees the one full-time AKLN employee (registrar) who communicates regularly with board members, teachers, schools, and districts to register students and report on progress made.
This collaboration is much tougher than just opening up a virtual or brick-and-mortar school. It would be easier to have a smaller focus, but it would not allow for all to participate. AKLN’s focus is on brokering services between districts, and helping to provide guidance and leadership towards quality and policies that enable innovation.
A side effect of the AKLN course pilots has been that the face-to-face students in the AKLN teachers’ courses mixed with the online students has provided a very successful blended learning experience for all students. The brick-and-mortar students are benefiting from additional students to interact, discuss, and give different perspectives, as well as a structured curriculum. The online students benefit from additional students, as well as a highly qualified Alaskan teacher and a course that they would not otherwise have had access to.
AKLN is using the new Alaska State Standards in Math and Language Arts, as well as other Alaska state standards. EED has provided the leadership in updating the standards and creating tools for use by all stakeholders statewide.
EED is continuing to explore blended learning environments and how to best support districts. Research on this includes the following:
- Alaska State Standards: https://education.alaska.gov/tls/assessment/GLEHome.html
- iNACOL: International Association for K-12 Online Learning (http://www.inacol.org/)
- Digital Learning Now (http://digitallearningnow.com)
- Innosight Institute (http://www.innosightinstitute.org/)
- Keeping Pace (http://kpk12.com/)
The following courses are currently being created for inclusion in the 2013-2014 school year:
|ENG 8: American Literature||Larissa Wright||Anchorage|
|ENG 9: World Literature: Many Voices, One Experience||Erik Johnson||Anchorage|
|MATH 7: Algebra I||Christina Hum||Fairbanks|
|MATH 8: Geometry / Trigonometry||Samatha Wuttig||Fairbanks|
|SCI 7: Earth Science||Darren Kellerby||Anchorage|
|SS 7: World History||Nicole Crosby||Anchorage|
|SS 8: American History||Adam Robinson||Anchorage|
The following courses are currently being piloted in the 2012-2013 school year:
|ENG 1 : Literacy and Comprehension 1||E2020||Ketchikan|
|ENG 2: Literacy and Comprehension 2||E2020||Ketchikan|
|ENG 3: Composition||Emily Davis||Kake|
|ENG 4: World Literature||Chad Gerlach||Copper River|
|ENG 5: American Literature||E2020||Ketchikan|
|ENG 6: British Literature||E2020||Ketchikan|
|ENG 7: Advanced Composition||E2020||Ketchikan|
|MATH 1: Pre-Algebra||Eric Hart||Chatham|
|MATH 2: Algebra 1||E2020||Ketchikan|
|MATH 3: Algebra 2||E2020||Ketchikan|
|MATH 4: Geometry||E2020||Ketchikan|
|MATH 5: Financial Math||E2020||Ketchikan|
|MATH 6: Precalculus (Math 107) – dual credit||Doug Carroll||Cordova|
|SCI 1: Earth Science||E2020||Ketchikan|
|SCI 2: Physical Science||Joe Marley||Yukon Koyukuk|
|SCI 3: Biology||March Proch||Copper River|
|SCI 4: Marine Biology||Jeff Szarzi||Kenai|
|SCI 5: Chemistry||Lisa Thomas||Annette Island|
|SCI 6: Environmental Science: Geospacial Technologies||Denyse Hurst||Kenai|
|SS 1: US History||E2020||Ketchikan|
|SS 2: World History||E2020||Ketchikan|
|SS 3: Geography||E2020||Ketchikan|
|SS 4: Economics||E2020||Ketchikan|
|SS 5: US Government and Politics||Michele Galla||Wrangell|
|SS 6: Alaska Studies (fall semester)||Rene’ Martin||Haines|
|SS 7: Alaska Studies (spring semester)||Rene’ Martin||Haines|
|CTE 1&2: CIOS 105 Computer Lit – dual credit||Sam McPhetres||Haines|
|CTE 3 : Survey of Emerging Technologies||Tracie Weisz||Alaska Gateway|
|CTE 4: Strategies for Academic Success||E2020||Ketchikan|
|CTE 5: Career planning & Development||E2020||Ketchikan|
|FA 1: Creative Writing & Sitka Fine Arts Camp||Hillary Seeland||Sitka|
|FA 2 : Digital Arts 1||E2020||Ketchikan|
|FA 3 igital Arts 2||E2020||Ketchikan|
|FA 4 : Image Design & Editing||E2020||Ketchikan|
|FA 5 : Game Design||E2020||Ketchikan|
|FA 6 : Audio Engineering||E2020||Ketchikan|
|ELE 1: Health||E2020||Ketchikan|
|ELE 2: SAT Virtual Tour||E2020||Ketchikan|
|ELE 3: ACT Virtual Tutor||E2020||Ketchikan|
|WL 1: French I||E2020||Ketchikan|
|WL 2: French II||E2020||Ketchikan|
|WL 3: Spanish I||E2020||Ketchikan|
|WL 4: Spanish II||E2020||Ketchikan|
Courses purchased from E2020 are coordinated through the Ketchikan School District in Alaska. This completes offerings needed for all students to qualify for the Alaska Performance Scholarship, as well as courses identified as needed by the AKLN board.
Courses sponsored other districts are being developed by Alaskan teachers, with the support and guidance of AKLN. Full descriptions are attached.
All courses use the “Backwards by Design” structure. Courses begin with the standards that will be mastered in the course. Alaska State Standards are aligned to the Common Core. Once the standards are identified, rubrics are written that clarify expectations for mastery. The standards are then grouped into modules, with lessons presented as a ‘hook’, direct instruction, practice and application, then checking for understanding. AKLN courses follow this example:
- Introduction (hook)
- Research (learning the concepts)
- Activities (applying the concepts into real-world examples)
- Assessments (rubrics showing advanced / proficient / developing / emerging)
- Check list (before moving on… did you do everything – have you mastered the material)
Example rubrics are attached. Students begin at emerging, and then progress through developing, as they practice the concepts. Proficient is required to show mastery anytime/anywhere. Students may choose to go beyond mastery and help teach others, to receive advanced. Students submit work in a variety of ways.
Once piloted and revised, all Alaskan-created courses are placed in the Alaska Digital Sandbox for access by all teachers in Alaska. Alaskan teachers can download, revise, use, adapt one lesson, one module, or whole courses at no cost. If a school still would like to register students in the course, for any reason including the need of a highly qualified teacher, they can still enroll through AKLN. The cost for enrollment is $150/student per semester. This fee passes through the coordinated efforts statewide through AKLN to the district sponsoring the course, to off-set teacher costs, etc.
All courses are asynchronous (available anytime/anywhere to meet the scheduling needs of a variety of districts and students), with the exception of Math 107 – College Precalculus. This is offered synchronously (live) with limited enrollment. Alaska has local control of education, with districts able to set their own schedules, curriculum and address issues at a local level. The challenge for AKLN is that districts begin and end their school year up to a month apart from each other. AKLN has addressed this challenge by making the first month of every course an introduction into the platform, practicing student and teacher introductions, and setting the stage for the classroom environment. It is critical that students communicate immediately with their online instructor, as well as feel safe and supported. AKLN requires an “Enrollment Agreement” (see attached) that shows the partnership between the online instructor, the school where the student is physically, the student and the parents. Many rural Alaskan students are shy at first, and are much more successful if they can talk with someone they know. Success rate for AKLN courses last year was 85%. The 15% who did not complete either moved out of state, out of district, or withdrew early, due to the rigor of the courses.
Collaboration with the University of Alaska: Introduction to Mining Course
AKLN is helping coordinate a statewide dual-credit course for high school seniors in Mining Occupations and Operations.
UAS: S Minl 193 An Introduction to Mining Occupations and Operations
Students will explore career opportunities and pathways to mining jobs by participating in discussions and presentations of mining occupations by professionals that are currently working in or with the mining industry. After gaining an understanding of how an Alaskan mine operates, the students will tour a mine near their home area to view and discuss the processes with employees of that mine.
This is a dual credit course awarding 3 UAS credits and .5 JDSD credits here in Juneau. Other school districts will award the amount of the high school credit as per their criteria. The grade system is based on attendance / participation / homework / quizzes / and a final essay as described in the syllabus.
Details are posted on AKLN’s web site: http://www.aklearn.net/introduction-to-mining/
In addition to this course, the University of Alaska is assisting AKLN with articulating all dual-credit courses (high school & college credit) statewide, and providing assistance from course designers for building some of the pilot courses.
Who we serve:
AKLN serves all public school districts in the state of Alaska.
AKLN creates their own courses, as much as funding allows, and then purchases the rest, through districts. The first year of courses offered (2011-2012), AKLN developed one course, CIOS 105 (Computer Literacy 105) dual credit. This was identified as needed for 16 career pathways at the University of Alaska. Students received a semester of high school and 3 credits from the University. This course began with the National Education Technology Standards for Students (NETS*S). A rubric was built, and then Next Gen Assessments from Wisconsin was contracted to create an assessment that used critical thinking, and drilled down to specific standards, offering at least four different opportunities for mastery. When students finished the pre-assessment, both they and the teacher knew which standard(s) were already proficient. At that point, students are given two choices: 1) sit out that module and receive credit at proficient; or 2) continue with their peers (most choose this option) and receive advanced for helping teach others. The competency-based concept lets students know they are honored for what they already know and can do, and assure them that this course is going to help them address their own needs. All the other 21 courses were purchased from K12 Online through Wrangell School District.
In Year Two, AKLN worked with iNACOL (International Association for K-12 Online Learning) to develop specific standards and rubrics for Alaska’s Online Courses (see excel spreadsheet). This includes some ‘non-negotiables’ that are true for all courses, as well as the ideal elements to strive for, but are not required. All pilot courses begin with this rubric, and then are checked along with way, with a final measure in the spring, after revisions have been made, before placing in the Alaska Digital Sandbox.
The iNACOL consultant, Brent Bakken, traveled up to Anchorage, Alaska to work with AKLN staff, EED, the University of Alaska and school districts. He came with ideas from other states on how they combined some standards, and found some that were either not in there that needed to be addressed, or most often standards that were similar, and combined them into one document.
AKLN also formed a formal agreement with the University of Alaska – Center for Distance Education. UofA has been creating and offering distance education statewide for almost 100 years. Their course designers are experts in finding resources for highly interactive activities, as well as helped provide guidance and support for AKLN’s teachers developing & piloting new courses. AKLN teachers selected were identified by their superintendents. AKLN then worked with each teacher, individually and in groups, to help them begin to build their course, and learn how to be effective online teachers. AKLN provided a student management system (SchoolTown), if their district did not already have something in place, as well as supported the teacher throughout the development and pilot of the course.
All AKLN teachers are employed by their local district, and provide instruction and guidance in the online course, in addition to the face-to-face students. AKLN provides coordination of registration, with limits of no more than 20 combined face-to-face and online students per course. AKLN teachers work in partnership with the On-Site Student Supervisor, to be sure the student gets support from all sides, and then recommends a grade that the local school, who has the final say in assigning.
Acronyms and Resources:
|AKLN||Alaska’s Learning Network||www.aklearn.net|
|EED||Alaska Department of Education & Early Development||http://education.alaska.gov|
|ADS||Alaska Digital Sandbox (online repository for education objects – free and open to all)||www.alaskadigitalsandbox.org|
|ACSA||Alaska Council of School Administrators||http://www.alaskaacsa.org/|
|ASDN||Alaska Staff Development Network||www.asdn.org|
|ARRA||American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009||http://www.recovery.gov/About/Pages/The_Act.aspx|
|iNACOL||International Association for K-12 Online Learning||http://www.inacol.org/|
|UofA||University of Alaska||http://elearning.uaf.edu/|
|NCLB||No Child Left Behind||http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml|
|ESEA||Reauthorizing the Elementary & Secondary Education Act||http://www.ed.gov/esea|