Monday, May 22, 2017

Tonka Online High School Starting Year Five with 40+ Courses & 1200+ Students

Four years ago, Minnetonka Schools started the Tonka Online program. We started small with a few teachers and courses. The program was designed to offer additional options for our high school students, allowing them to take courses in the summer and/or additional courses during the school year in order to "Do More in Four". As stated on our website, "by taking advantage of Tonka Online, you can complete required or preparatory courses during the summer, flex your daytime schedule or pick up an additional class during the school year. By creatively mapping a four-year plan, you now have the ability to complete three years of math in two years, take two music classes during the year, pursue electives that align with your passions, or ensure time for specialty programs during the junior and senior year."

The courses offered are not remedial, and instead are the same challenging, rigorous curriculum with the same high standards of our face to face courses. Content is built by our teachers, not purchased from a third party vendor. The teachers are the same in both settings as well--all are Minnetonka teachers who teach face to face during part of the day and then have one/more courses of online students. None of our Tonka Online teachers are fully teaching online. Students can set up times to meet with their online teachers face to face for help and support, just as they would in their brick and mortar classes. All of our courses are built in Schoology, our Learning Management System, which students begin using in Kindergarten.

This summer and coming school year, there will be over 40 courses offered. Students can take preparatory courses in math, science, social studies, or world language. The can take classes to accelerate their learning in computer science, math, or science. They can also take classes of interest and/or to free up space for other options during the coming year, including art, music, computer science, English, physical education, science, social studies, family and consumer science, and even a model UN course. Courses are open to students in grades 9-12. In addition, this summer we begin offering computer science to students in grades 6-8. Enrollment continues to grow, with almost 700 students taking courses this summer and around 250 each semester during the coming school year. In March 2016, the District was approved by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) as a Supplemental Online Learning (OLL) Provider, making it possible to serve out-of-district students. The Tonka Online program also has received NCAA approval.

There has been and continues to be a lot of work done to make Tonka Online successful. The teachers are supported by a 0.4 FTE teacher instructional technology coach, Ben Stanerson, who works with them to provide training and quality control for the program, along with one of our high school assistant principals who oversees Tonka Online, Robb Virgin. Ben frequently meets with each Tonka Online teacher, shares effective practices, and reviews courses, content, student participation, and progress. An online course benchmark has been created that provides a baseline for course design elements in order to create an engaging and interactive course. Best practices from the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching & Learning as well as the iNACOL Standards. Students are frequently surveyed to ensure engagement, measure progress, and set the bar for improvement.

We know that more and more learning will move online in the future for both our students and our teachers. Having an online school in house already successfully established and growing will position Minnetonka well for this future. Having staff teach in both schools means they are taking the best curriculum and techniques for both learning environments and all our students are benefitting.  

For more information about Tonka Online, visit the homepage which includes links to the Course Catalog, FAQs, Fees and Payment and more.

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