Reaching Out to Non-Traditional Students

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Reaching Out to Non-Traditional Students

June 2013

Published on Switch: A FlipSwitch Newsletter
June 2013

Penn Foster in Pennsylvania is a leading career-focused online and blended education institution, partnered with the Scranton School District to offer accredited programs, self-paced classes and affordable tuition. It operates a three-tiered system through Penn Foster College, Penn Foster Career School and Penn Foster High School.

The school was founded in 1890 to provide coal miners with the education they needed to advance in their careers and increase worker safety. It now offers over 100 career- focused programs, as well as individual courses, all connected through a supportive online community.

Ray McNulty, Chief Learning Officer for Penn Foster, outlined the benefits of online learning for non-traditional students:

In today's evolving education space, high school education is no longer bound to the classroom. And online education is no longer bound to the computer. Private online institutions are developing new blended learning models that combine online and in-class to provide affordable educational pathways for nontraditional students. These nontraditional students may be working adults seeking career advancement, at-risk students not suited for traditional schools, students facing health challenges, or people who fall outside the high school age range of traditional schools.

Blended learning options offered by private online institutions are similar to those offered by traditional high schools in that they are flexible and personalized. However, private online institutions are different in that they are not focused just on helping students earn their high school diplomas. They are also focused on helping these students think about and prepare for their future after high school through career- oriented classes and a smooth transition from high school into the workforce or into an associate's or bachelor's degree program.

Many programs offered through private institutions give high schools the chance to partner with them for cost-effective, high-quality educational options. By giving their students online learning options, these high schools can reduce facility and administrative costs as well as the amount of money they spend to educate each student.

Beyond cost savings, the blended education trend reflects a broader focus on the shift toward a student-centric approach to education. Regardless of whether the institution offering blended options is a traditional high school or an online career school, the emphasis is still on helping students to succeed using whatever learning techniques work best for them. Perhaps the most effective form of blended learning results from traditional high schools and online private institutions partnering together, as in the Scranton School District. This approach allows students to take the types of classes they want, when and where they want them, and gives these institutions the opportunity to learn from each other about how they can best serve their students. By combining their strengths, they can ensure that their students have the education they need to build a bright future.

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