FAIRBORN (January 13, 2020) – As COVID numbers are continuing to set records into the New Year, families with school-age children are grappling with meeting the challenges of remote learning at home for the unforeseeable future amid worry that their children are falling behind.
But 2020 was a success for students at Fairborn Digital Academy, a pioneer in the Dayton region in remote, individualized learning that has evolved its technology-based teaching for almost 20 years.
During the initial, widespread shut down of most schools last spring, FDA made a seamless switch into a full online learning experience, adding Zoom meetings while continuing its robust engagement with students and parents. The school’s methods paid off: FDA graduated 65 students in spring 2020, the largest class in the school’s history. Combined with 13 graduates from the previous fall semester, FDA experienced its most successful year to date.
The school’s graduation success has continued into the 2020-2021 academic year: FDA graduated 11 students this fall, with little to no disruption, thanks to the school’s individually tailored learning programs that combine online classes, in-person tutoring, interest-based class experiences such as gardening and the guidance of accountability coaches. The school had already started upgrading computer equipment and technology offerings in order to serve students’ current and evolving needs—ahead of most schools who have had to reimagine learning in a remote environment in the wake of COVID.
According to a Pew Research study published in October, a little less than a third of families nationwide whose children are learning 100-percent online are satisfied with their learning experiences amid the rapid, COVID-induced paradigm shift to remote education. The study also reported that seven out of 10 parents whose children are getting online instruction–either fully or in combination with in-person learning–say they or another adult in their household is providing additional instruction or resources to their children beyond what is being provided schools.
“Our experience has taught us that just sitting a student in front of a computer and expecting the student to learn from watching a video or reading a webpage, doesn’t really work,” said Erik Tritsch, Executive Director of Fairborn Digital Academy. “Students need significant access to staff to help them understand their classes, which in turn takes some of the burden away from parents when it comes to supporting what is happening in the classroom.”
FDA students customize their learning based on their individual goals and educational needs. Common goals include earning a high school diploma early, earning college credits and receiving one-on-one coaching, during which they can learn at their own pace. These individual learning plans are developed in collaboration with families, and teachers–called “Accountability Coaches” at FDA–stay in constant contact with students and their support systems.
“Our experience with online learning has prepared our teachers to more easily move students at individual paces and provide one-on-one feedback if they are struggling,” said Erik Tritsch, Executive Director for Fairborn Digital Academy. “Our teachers do whatever it takes to get results.”
The school’s experience with online learning and its accountability coaches were the key factor for Alieyah Desiree Hamilton-Adams, who graduated in the spring at the age of 21 while expecting her son. Hamilton-Adams started attending FDA when she was 17 after trying several other schools.
““It was a big difference from most schools I went to. Instead of books and hard lessons, everything is on a computer, which I personally preferred more,” Hamilton-Adams said. “The teachers are always there to help you if you ever need it because unlike most, they care about our education and our success. Even when you give up on yourself, they don’t. I know that first hand. They stayed on me about a lot because they knew I had the potential to do it. On June 23, 2020 I received my high school diploma, pregnant at the age of 21, with no regrets, “ she said.
“I think there is a heightened awareness now among families that the flexibility digital learning provides can really benefit their kids, when it’s done well,” said Tritsch. “Parents are re-evaluating what a good educational experience means.”
“This is what we were built for,” Tritsch added. “We know that not everyone learns the same, and not everyone educates the same.”
FDA is an online high school serving Fairborn and the surrounding districts offering rolling admissions throughout the year; families interested in more information can contact Erik Tritsch, FDA Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the school website at https://fairborndigital.us/.