We are thrilled to share a spotlight story with you today on Peyton Online Academy, a small school in Colorado that we here at iLC have absolutely loved working with. Peyton Academy was a bit ahead of the game due to the fact that they underwent the whole blended learning transformation several years back, and therefore they have some great wisdom to share that is more applicable than ever in the midst of the pandemic.
There are around sixty students in the online academy, and it was founded as a way to offer something for students who didn’t thrive in brick and mortar environments. The school focuses heavily on individual instruction, and every single student’s schedule is catered to their needs (e.g. if they participate in activities like community theater and need to have classes in the evening while they rehearse during the day). The way that this school is modeled creates flexibility for every student and allows them to further pursue their dreams, especially if they are interested in something like criminology or graphic design and are able to do classes through a community college while completing their Peyton classes at an accelerated pace. The school is designed to be completely asynchronous, but there are a few full time staff members, social studies, math, and science teachers who hold office hours and help keep students on track who may find it difficult to keep up with their work on their own.
Peyton Online Academy actually had some teachers take classes through iLC to initially learn what blended learning was and how to incorporate it into the courses that they design, and they appreciated the way that the courses lay out knowledge and resources for the teachers to then take and integrate into their curriculum.
The teachers from Peyton also found the gamification course and the Digital Content Warehouse particularly helpful---the DCW especially enabled them to not have to start from scratch when creating blended learning courses.
The biggest challenge that accompanied the nature of an online academy was that they initially grew too fast and it became difficult to provide the one-on-one support that many students needed---from this first experience the staff then regrouped and found a balance between the right number of students and still having the time to curate quality courses, connect with kids and families, and send out weekly progress reports and schedules to students.
Having a school that is entirely online can make it difficult for students to build relationships with each other, but Petyon Online Academy takes on this challenge with purpose and intention by hosting an event each month where students and families could gather (pre-COVID). These events included ice cream socials, potlucks, holiday meals, Valentine’s Day boxes and cookies, a float for the homecoming parade, and a lock-in with movies and other activities.
When asked what the most positive experiences of utilizing blended learning has been for the academy, one staff member from Peyton spoke about how rewarding it was to see kids thrive that originally may not have been able to graduate in a typical school environment. She talked about how wonderful it was to see these students push through adversity and succeed against all odds, and that it reminded her of why she was in teaching in the first place and treasured those moments.
We are so grateful that we got to learn more about Peyton Online Academy’s story, and we hope that you are as inspired as we are!