In our conversation with Dr. Kathryn Fishman-Weaver with Mizzou K–12 Online, we'll talk about how online courses can be used to create a blended classroom, as well as how to increase your STEM offerings without increasing the workload for your teachers. Kathryn will also talk about a new project they have with students in Brazil.
Welcome to the MBS Direct podcast, where we talk with some of our partners who are doing some interesting things with content and education. I'm Carrie Watkins, the senior digital consultant with MBS Direct. Today we are talking with Dr. Kathryn Fishman-Weaver with Mizzou K–12 Online. Thank you for joining us, Kathryn.
Kathryn: You're welcome. I'm excited to be here.
Carrie: Tell me a little bit about your role with Mizzou K–12 Online.
Kathryn: Sure. I'm the Director of Academic Affairs and Engagement, which means I oversee teaching and learning with Mizzou K–12 Online. It's a terrific job.
Carrie: Excellent. What is Mizzou K–12 Online?
Kathryn: We're a rapidly growing global consortium of schools. Our mission is to offer high quality instruction through blended courses, online courses and co-teach courses.
What is the blended approach to courses?
Kathryn: One of the areas that we're growing is in a new kind of partnership in education. We have schools, districts and regions that are partnering with us to help students access courses they might not otherwise be able to access. A growing segment of that is that we'll have a school call us and they want to partner with us — say for a speech class — they don't envision their students going home and learning on their own through a traditional online model. Instead, they want to support their students in the school with us in a collaborative way. All the students might come to a resource room and work together on the study skills curriculum — our curriculum through our online model — but be learning together in the schools. Then, we can develop a relationship with the teacher who's overseeing that or the counselor who's helping with that program. Then provide a different and more collaborative student support approach for learning.
Carrie: That's really awesome. I think a big fear of some of the schools with online learning at the K–12 level is that it becomes replacement for that classroom instruction. What you're saying is it's really a collaborative process, very much a partnership between the school and Mizzou K–12 Online.
Kathryn: Absolutely. I think that research shows that learning outcomes are best when you can operate with this collaborative model.
Carrie: Absolutely, that's really exciting. Of course, a lot of students are going to experience online learning when they go to their higher education of choice. This is a really good introduction for them as they work directly with teachers and sort of hand-hold them through that online process.
How long has Mizzou K–12 Online been doing this sort of thing?
Kathryn: It's a great and complex question. We have a rich history with the University of Missouri. For just a little history lesson, as early as 1913 — and this really blows my mind — you could get credit for K–12 courses through the University of Missouri through our elementary and high school program. In 1999 we became an accredited high school. Then in 2011 we merged with the College of Education. Our accredited high school came under the College of Education so that we could work collaboratively to support better learning outcomes, cutting edge research on teachers and learning.
When did you guys move from traditional in-the-classroom education to more of an online or correspondence model?
Kathryn: We went from a school that was housed here at the University of Missouri to a correspondence distance model where students would mail in their exams to an online model that was really a traditional online model and then to this new iteration, which is even more innovative with the blended and the co-teach courses.
Carrie: That's very cool. You guys have been at this for a really long time. I'm sure when you guys first got started back with the dawn of the University you had certain problems that you were trying to solve. How have those goals and those problems changed over the last couple years as you introduced the blended and the co-teach models? What are you guys trying to solve now, and maybe how is that different from what you were doing before?
Kathryn: We're still trying to solve the same problem we've always been trying to solve, which is, how do we hold all students to high expectations? How do we support diverse classes of students who are learning at different levels and paces and come to us with different prior backgrounds? Also, how do we make learning relevant to the world our students live in? In education we have to change what we're doing so that there's a match between the world that our students are living in and the world that they're learning in. I see co-teach, blended, international education, partnerships, inter-disciplinary partnerships as a potential answer to this question. We in education have to also be constantly evolving and iterative.
Carrie: Absolutely. You never know what's going to happen, the only constant is change. You really have to continue to look at the horizon and figure out how you can adapt.
Kathryn: We know that we need to be on the forefront of STEM education. We've spent a lot of thoughtful pedagogical consideration into our STEM courses. We offer an AP Calculus course. We offer an AP Statistics course. We offer an AP Computer Science course. Our school partners have been really excited for their students to learn in any of these AP courses. We have additional AP courses too, in the other core subject areas. Additionally, we offer the traditional line of your math and science courses. I mention this because Mizzou K–12 can also be an option for advanced younger students.
Perhaps a school has a 9th grader who's ready to take Pre-Calculus and that's not offered at their school for 9th graders. They could take that class through us. We also do offer credit recovery. A student whose 2nd semester Biology just didn't go that well, may need to take another look at it, we can work with students in that way. One of the things that we're committed to is supporting diverse groups of learners and meeting students where they are. Being able to enroll a student in the single course that you need, whether it's for enrichment, advancement or review, is something unique that we can offer at Mizzou K–12.
Carrie: You guys have — we've already said before — you guys have a lot going on at Mizzou K–12 Online.
What do you think is the most interesting thing happening in education? What are you excited about, in terms of education right now?
Kathryn: One thing that we're really excited about in Mizzou K–12 right now, we've just partnered with over 50 schools in Brazil — all high schools. We've got close to 3,000 9th, 10th and 11th graders who'll be studying with us in our diploma program earning a US high school diploma all through co-teach courses, while also earning their Brazilian high school diploma. This has been a grand project for us to work on. Grand in terms of scale, but also grand in terms of ideology. The ways that this program has pushed us to think differently about education is really, really exciting.
Carrie: For those students that's got to be really very interesting for them, earning both a Brazilian diploma as well as a diploma from a United States curriculum.
Kathryn: I'm so excited for the world that those students are going to lead.
Carrie: Absolutely, absolutely. I think it's all in good hands, hopefully.
Kathryn: I have a lot of faith in our students.
Carrie: Very good. Obviously, Mizzou K–12 Online is a partner with MBS Direct. Our partner schools can absolutely talk to their account manager if they're interested in maybe taking a course, or providing a course for their students who will do K–12 Online. If other folks have more questions or maybe want to do a little bit of research outside of their account manager, what is the best way for them to find that information or to learn more?
Kathryn: Absolutely, we would love to talk to anyone who wants to learn more. We have a website, it's http://mizzouk12online.missouri.edu. We're also on social media. You can find our Facebook page, Mizzou K–12, or you can find us on Twitter and our handle is also @MizzouK12.
Carrie: Well, thank you very much, Kathryn, for your time. I appreciate your information here about Mizzou K–12 Online. We really enjoy the partnership that we have with Mizzou K–12 Online. Thank you for joining us.
Kathryn: Absolutely, thank you. It was wonderful to chat.
For more information on any of the topics discussed in this podcast, or any other questions you have about digital content options, contact your Account Manager or you can reach out to me, Carrie Watkins, Senior Digital Consultant, on Twitter, @CarrieJWatkins.