KCA gives tips for online learning

The Kansas Connections Academy is an online school that partners with USD 218 Elkhart, but serves the entire state.

Mandi Adams-Brazill, school leader, said the purpose of the school was to serve students who had unique learning needs.

“We have a wide-range of students who just have unique learning needs and not sitting in the structured, classroom environment every single day doesn't work for them,” she said. “The purpose of forming was just to reach out to learners with unique learning needs or needing schedule flexibility and serve those students, to make sure they're still receiving a high quality education.”

When it opened 10 years ago and they started with around 80 students. Now, they have about 800.

About half of those students are K-8, and the other half are high school students.

Adams-Brazill said in the past 10 years they’ve found that the first year for new students is always a learning experience.

There are challengers in that first year in terms of learning how to form relationships, connecting with students and keeping them engaged.

With in-person schooling in Kansas an across the nation closed for the remainder of the school year, Adams-Brazill offered some tips to teachers, parents and students for successful continuous learning for the rest of the 2019-20 school year.

Staying in constant contact with students and building relationships between students and their family and teachers is key, Adams-Brazill said.

“Building those relationship can seem daunting at first, but really, if you’re utilizing email and a learning platform, text messaging, phone calls, you can find what works as a teacher, what works as a family,” she said. “Make sure you stay in communication so that the expectation and assignment feedback continues to happen.”

Adams-Brazill said teachers can’t educate students if they don’t have relationships with them.

“Teachers and families continuing those relationships through the rest for the school year is going to be critical to health and academic success,” she said.

All parties involved also need to create a sense of calm, Adams-Brazill said.

“If you're a teacher, really promote positivity and that reminding families and students that you're in this together and that you've got it,” she said. “For parents to just create a calm environment in the home. Address mental and physical health first and then academics second. That will set up an environment for academic success to be able to happen.”

Having a schedule is also important, Adams-Brazill said.

For teachers a schedule allows form them to connect and to create a structure for the day so they can tackle everything from from lesson planning to feedback.

It’s also important for families to have a schedule for the same reason, Adams-Brazill said. It creates a structure similar to a regular school day, but it won’t look like a typical eight hour school or work day and it shouldn’t.

“Create a schedule to the day so you can make sure your students have the opportunity to work with teachers and to tackle learning tasks, but also do things that are fun and active and keep you moving, keep mental health and safety as a top priority too,” she said.

In addition to a structured schedule, Adams-Brazill recommends creating dedicated work spaces.

“It doesn't have to be something fancy,” she said. “It can be as simple as a corner of the table, but somewhere where they can have all their learning materials accessible and that they kind of feel like 'this is where I need to sit down and focus in.'”

Adams-Brazill also suggests that teacher, parents and students also be understanding of everyone’s differing situations.

“I know everyone is doing the best that they can and I think if everyone commits to doing the best that they can in this situation academic success and growth is still going to happen,” she said.

KCA has other tips and online resources available for teachers, parents and students.

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