Online school provides unique curriculum in rural areas

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By Barb Meidinger

The North Dakota Center for Distance Education on-line learning opportunities provide the perfect venue for inquisitive students who want to explore the world through their fingertips, without ever stepping foot into a classroom. They have made it one of their priorities to expand the minds of students in rural areas by offering unique online classes and a high school diploma program to students who never thought it was possible to learn in this unique manner.

In largely populated areas students are typically able to choose from a wide variety of core and elective level classes with a hands-on learning experience in a classroom setting. In districts with only a handful of students, combined with a tight budget, the variety of options outside the core curriculum isn’t always possible for a district. Because of this situation the North Dakota Center for Distance Education (NDCDE) chose to expand their curriculum offerings with courses provided by the #1 publisher of online career and elective courses, eDynamic Learning.

“It is our responsibility to ensure ALL students receive the best education possible, no matter what the circumstances,” said Barb Meidinger, NDCDE’s secondary principal. “With the addition of eDynamic Learning elective courses, schools and students can select from over 50 engaging, relevant courses to round out their education.”

Today’s tech savvy students enjoy the user-friendly format and the freedom to access classes anytime from anywhere. At the North Dakota Center for Distance Education students have the option to take as little as one class per semester, or they can enroll in the high school diploma program and graduate from NDCDE ready for college. These unique opportunities would not be possible without the ala Carte list of classes and the flexibility and vision of eDynamic Learning founder and CEO, Kevin Viau.

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“I met Kevin back in 2007 when he was just starting eDynamic Learning. At that time he only offered two Social Studies classes! The eDynamic portfolio might have been limited, but I knew our students would benefit from the high-quality, relevant content the courses had to offer,” said Meidinger. “It was easy to make the decision to work with Kevin in 2007 and here we are 8 years later still engaged with him and the company! His vision and his ability to understand the type of content that engages students keeps eDynamic Learning at the forefront of online learning.”

Over the years NDCDE has adopted dozens of core and elective courses offered from a select group of vendors, including eDynamic Learning. However, students gravitate toward eDynamic Learning courses to study unique subjects as: culinary arts, forensic science, public speaking, law and order, criminology, and so on, because they are so different from a traditional course.

“We receive a lot of positive comments about eDynamic Learning courses from students on the evaluation survey we send to them after every course they take,” explained learning management systems manager, Mike Miller. “They are learning new information with every course and it is refreshing to hear them say they are being challenged in a good way.”

NDCDE staff believes they are filling the educational gap between electives and core curriculum by providing the courses that smaller districts can’t offer. They couldn’t do it without the courses offered and created by eDynamic.

“We asked Kevin if he could create a new mythology and folklore course because ours was tired and uninteresting and he granted our request! eDynamic Learning created the course just for us, and now it’s part of their course catalogue and one of our most popular classes,” stated Meidinger.

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In the early 1930’s, North Dakota led the way in recognizing the learning limitations that were forced on rural students. The state championed NDCDE as one of the first schools focused on correspondence courses. The school, once dependent on snail mail, is now ahead of its time with 24-hour accessibility to a quality education with course variety and career exploration thrown into the mix.

“The mission of the school is to introduce students to things they may have never seen or thought of, and self discovery is one the best parts of being in education,” said Meidinger. “Teachers like teaching the eDynamic Learning courses and students like taking them! You can’t get any better than that.”

NDCDE hopes to expand student opportunities even more by opening their first ‘Learning Lab’ where students K-12 are able to go for additional hands-on learning experiences. The lab, located in the offices of NDCDE, will open in late summer 2015. The Center for Distance Education will work with schools throughout North Dakota to make similar labs available for their students.

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Barb Meidinger is the Secondary Principal at the North Dakota Center for Distance Education.

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Mangi Tshikomba is a technology entrepreneur, Founder & CEO of Things Technologies and founding editor of EdTechDojo.co.za. He is a OYW Ambassador, Queens Young Leader and Brightest Young Minds Alumni. He holds BSc(Hon) Civil Engineering from Wits University, Jhb and Leadership Certificate from certificate from Cambridge University, UK. His interests are in Entrepreneurship, EdTech and Early Childhood Development (ECD).