Posted on behalf of Sean Bierle, Founder and Head Teacher at Alzar School in Cascade, Idaho

The Alzar School offers academic semesters for motivated high school sophomores and juniors. These semesters immerse students in a rigorous, challenging educational setting that emphasizes leadership training. Alzar has been utilizing CourseSites by Blackboard to provide our students with an online learning component through some pre-course frontloading of material within CourseSites, for example:

  • Students watch YouTube videos that are embedded into their learning environment that orient them to the unique mission of the school.
  • They complete discussion board assignments to get to know their “classmates” before they leave for their expedition.
  • They select books about historic leaders to read during the course.
  • Our instructors post the details of the post-course assignments on the class site and students submit reflective papers.

The interactive and collaborative opportunities – available through CourseSites – have proved to be extremely valuable as our students get acquainted with their teachers and classmates. It has also been proven to increase peer-to-peer engagement, spur dialogue, and creativity.

I started using CourseSites to support my traditional Chemistry class in a public school setting.  I realized CourseSites would be a great platform for engaging students before they join us for their experiential learning experience, especially since our students come from all over the country. It has allowed us to connect with students in new ways and expedite community building.

Now, the Alzar School is about to expand its programming and CourseSites usage.  We plan to support all of the student’s traditional high school classes as hybrid courses (mostly in person, but students will complete some assignments online).  By offering hybrid courses, we are able to provide students immediate feedback on many assignments and prepare students for life at a university, where they will undoubtedly experience an online learning environment and possibly take classes in a fully online format.

When students finish their semester with us, they will go back to their homes to complete their “Culminating Leadership Projects” and have weekly check-ins with Alzar instructors through CourseSites.  Through conference calls, online discussion board assignments, and more, the students will realize they always have a support network to lean on.

CourseSites has strengthened the learning opportunities for the students at the Alzar School and we are excited about continuing to explore ways to expand our use of the platform in the years to come.

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