Online Courses: A Solution to Staffing Gaps
As educators gear up to start another school year, a sizable portion of the 6,000 Catholic schools in the United States are likely facing a shortage of teachers. While staffing gaps in August are nothing new, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated teacher retirements and attrition. And finding teachers on short notice is not easy. Frequently unable to match the salaries offered by public school districts, it can be difficult to recruit teachers with the ideal combination of deep faith and subject matter expertise.
Moving Courses Online
Rather than quickly hire a teacher who might not be the best fit, Catholic schools can partner with an online education provider like Catholic Virtual to offer courses online. Aside from providing a teacher trained in the course subject matter, online courses can be set up quickly and can accommodate any number of students and a school’s existing schedule. With a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning elements, students have flexibility as to when and how they will access coursework. Students also learn how to self-pace and learn independently, skills they will need for success in higher education and careers.
In the 2020-21 school year, Catholic Virtual helped over 10 schools across the country offer courses in math, science, foreign languages, and elective courses, to nearly 300 students. These courses included honors and Advanced Placement sections. One school was St. Maria Goretti Catholic High School in Maryland. The school partnered with Catholic Virtual to offer physics (including Advanced Placement), AP Biology, and electives in graphic design and American Sign Language. Following a positive response, the school continued the partnership for the 2021-22 school year; Catholic Virtual will be providing Latin instruction to 60 students.
St. Joseph Catholic High School in Hawaii offered 15 additional classes through Catholic Virtual. Matthew Eftink, the school’s STEM chair, noted, “These were classes like Anatomy or AP Environmental Science, courses the kids were interested in, but we did not have the expertise in the faculty to teach. With the help of the partnership with Catholic Virtual, we were able to deliver more content to students at a reduced cost, and without a drop in quality.”
Choosing an Online Education Partner
When considering an online education partner, schools should look for a partner who understands the integration of faith into academics, is accredited, and provides a proven delivery system that is robust and accessible. Ideally, students should only need to log in to their learning management system once to access their courses and assignments. There should be regular communication between the teachers and parents and school staff to monitor and track student progress. And each course’s curriculum, assignments and assessments should be designed for online learning, with teachers trained in online education.
Catholic Virtual has been helping Catholic schools fill in teacher gaps for nearly a decade. Fully accredited by Cognia and with over 200 K-12 courses in core subjects, theology, and electives, Catholic Virtual combines high-quality academics with Catholic values and personalized attention. Students gain skills in communication, virtual collaboration, and independent learning, which they will need for success in college and beyond.
While facing a teacher shortage is never easy, Catholic Schools can easily turn to Catholic Virtual and other online education providers to offer classes with the same rigor and breadth as their own school’s courses. Online learning provides a back-pocket solution to a common challenge and ensures continuity in a school’s curriculum.
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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