How To Expand Your Course Offering and Boost Enrollment at Your Catholic High School
According to a recent report from the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), Catholic school enrollment grew by 0.3% during the 2022-2023 school year. While this is a small increase from the 2021-2022 school year, it is a significant reversal in the downward enrollment trends that Catholic schools were experiencing prior to the pandemic.
To keep this momentum going, Catholic schools must continue to attract and retain families. Many Catholic schools are achieving this goal, in part, because they have expanded their curriculum to include courses and formats that better meet the needs, demands and interests of students today. With the right strategy, you too can expand your course offering in thoughtful and valuable ways that are sure to boost enrollment. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Offer an independent study program
For many high school students, independent study programs are a way to reach their full potential and proactively advance their talents and studies. These programs provide students with a unique opportunity to customize their learning experience, dive deep into an interest area, explore different learning modalities, test drive a potential major, fuel a passion, earn college credits and more.
By offering an independent study option, you’re creating a pathway for students to personalize their learning experience and access enrichment opportunities outside of your regular offering. For certain students and their parents, an independent study program is incredibly attractive and can help your school stand out in their minds. Just remember to support students in their journey by giving them the tools they need to succeed, including access to a mentor or advisor who can provide program oversight, guidance and recommendations. Also, consider partnering with an accredited, Catholic online-learning provider to ensure students have access to challenging and quality courses.
Embrace online learning and remote teaching
According to a recent report from the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, there are more than 36,500 teacher vacancies in the United States and over 163,500 positions filled by underqualified teachers — and these are conservative findings. Expanding your curriculum in this environment is not easy, especially when your talent pool is confined to your own geographic area.
One way to overcome teacher shortages and skill gaps is to make online learning part of your curriculum. Let’s say students express interest in a computer programming language or Advanced Placement® course, but a qualified teacher is not available in your area. By leveraging teachers outside of your geographical location and allowing them to teach remotely through an online channel, you can drastically expand your talent pool and gain access to subject-matter experts who are qualified to teach the specialized courses students desire.
Partner with trusted third parties
Expanding your curriculum to include a greater depth and breadth of courses and formats is great in concept, but it can place an additional burden on your staff and operations. By partnering with a third party, you can outsource the work associated with course development, instruction and more. For example, are there parents, subject-matter experts or local business owners who can help develop courses or lead classes? Can you offer a dual-credit program by partnering with a nearby college or university? Or perhaps, trusted, local establishments can provide hands-on educational opportunities, such as an internship, in exchange for student workers or volunteers?
Additionally, you can partner with an accredited third party that specializes in Catholic education and will develop the curriculum, provide qualified teachers, supply a reliable technology platform for online learning and handle student communication, grading, technical support and more. You can focus your efforts on providing program direction and oversight — and they’ll do the rest.
Help parents overcome their hesitations
Expanding your course offering may require embracing new approaches and learning modalities. Change can feel uncomfortable for everyone involved, especially parents. To help parents overcome their hesitations with a new method or approach, help them see the benefits.
For example, many parents worry that the quality of education or personalized support may suffer with online learning. But in reality, with the right teacher or content, an online class can be more engaging than an in-person class. Online learning can free up in-class time for more personalized support and strategic thinking. Teachers have more flexibility, which helps with retention. Furthermore, we’re living in a digital world. The majority of professions and higher education require digital prowess of some degree. According to Best Colleges, it has become increasingly common over the past twenty years for students to take their courses online. In fall 2021, about 6 in 10 college students took at least one course online. Ensuring high school students are prepared for the digital realities of their future is a critical factor in their future success.
While online learning is sometimes met with resistance, there are many ways it can enhance the overall Catholic school experience. For more information on this topic, we encourage you to check out our recent blog on the topic.
You have a partner in Catholic Virtual
Catholic Virtual is the online partner that hundreds of K-12 Catholic schools worldwide trust to help them take their curriculum to new and exciting places. As a Cognia-accredited Catholic school partner, we are committed to providing students with the same high-quality Catholic school education they receive within your classroom walls. We offer a wide range of online courses and work with your school to develop a customized program that will allow you to offer the courses and educational experience that are best suited for you and your students.
To learn more about Catholic Virtual, please visit catholicvirtual.com or call 772-362-1754 today.
There are many options available to expand your school’s course catalog with online learning, but very few provide the combination of academic excellence, expertise in online instruction, and Catholic values your school needs.
Catholic schools are renowned for their commitment to academic excellence and religious education. However, in today’s evolving landscape, Catholic schools face unique challenges in retaining students and fostering enrollment growth. One way to help schools engage students and appeal to a wider audience is by expanding the curriculum with online courses—providing many benefits to students and your school. In this guide, we will explore the benefits of integrating online courses and provide practical insights to help navigate this path successfully.
Benefits of Integrating Online Courses
To meet the diverse needs of your students, expanding the course catalog through online courses offers several advantages. Keep reading to discover six key benefits of integrating online courses into a traditional Catholic school:
Increase the attractiveness of your school to prospective and current students
- A robust offering of courses, including a wide range of electives, increases the attractiveness of your school and improves the chances a student will enroll. Online courses from a quality partner allow you to attract new students with a wide selection of interesting courses such as Advanced Placement® and honors, web design, business, cybersecurity, music, and more.
- Students attending your school are more engaged in learning, and more likely to stay enrolled in your school, when you have an interesting array of course options.
- Courses from an accredited partner with high-quality teaching can provide a learning experience with the same high standards as you deliver in the classroom.
Offer flexible learning options
- Many online courses can be taken as an independent study, with students learning outside the classroom on a very flexible schedule. This allows students to take additional courses without interfering with their regular school schedule.
- A hybrid learning approach, with students learning in person and online, can provide a very engaging learning experience due to its flexibility and the combination of in-person, online, and independent instruction and study methods.
Provide an easy option for high school students to recover lost credits
- Even the best students sometimes struggle with a subject in high school and fail to earn credit toward graduation. Online courses are ideal for high school credit recovery because they are created to focus on the subject matter a student needs to learn to be successful and adapt accordingly.
- Credit recovery courses can be completed in less than a full semester, making them ideal for learning during the summer. Online credit recovery courses can be delivered without hiring another teacher to instruct during the summer break.
Give Students the Opportunity to Learn Over the Summer
- Your school can offer an extensive range of courses during the summer when they are delivered online. Summertime is an excellent time for students to explore new topics, move ahead in their studies, or make up lost high school credits. An online learning provider can supply your school with a wide variety of courses during the summer, from core, to elective, to religion courses.
- You can avoid many of the administrative tasks associated with running a summer school program when you partner with an online education provider, allowing you to focus instead on preparing for the upcoming school year.
Fulfill the school’s mission of providing religious instruction
- Central to a Catholic school education is instruction in faith. Online religion courses can give your school flexibility and add depth to your religious instructional offerings. While not a replacement to in-person religious instruction, online courses can be an excellent complement to your program.
- A high-quality, online, Catholic school partner is equipped to help you deliver on your school’s mission to educate the mind and spirit of your students. Choose to partner with an organization that can deliver not only on academic excellence, but also understands the central role of the Catholic faith in your school.
Offer cost-effective and flexible solutions
- There is no need to hire additional teachers. For example, if students in your school are interested in learning Latin, you may struggle to find a qualified teacher. With an online course, a highly qualified Latin teacher can instruct your students from wherever they live, saving you the trouble of hiring and the cost of a teacher’s salary.
- There are no minimum class sizes. If you have one student or 30 students interested in a subject, an online course can readily accommodate both scenarios. For specialized subjects where student demand may be unpredictable, you do not need to worry about having to cancel a course if enrollment is insufficient—or bear the cost of teaching a very small class.
- An online course may cost less than your school’s tuition, giving you the opportunity to use this difference to improve students’ learning experience in other ways.
- Online courses can be up and running quickly, allowing you to add courses even up until soon before the start of the semester.
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