Online and “In Real Life”: Learning with Digital Natives

High school student studying with tablet.For today’s students, information has always been one Google search away. People have been selling things on eBay and playing online games like World of Warcraft nearly their entire lives.

Even though students are digital natives of the internet world, for many, online learning may be a whole new realm.

Knowing how to learn and work online is more important than ever now that most modern colleges and workplaces include online work, from full courses to employee trainings. To continue to prepare our students for their life journeys, the West Des Moines Community Schools will be offering our highest number of online learning opportunities yet for the 2017-18 school year.

Is All Online Learning the Same?
Also known as e-learning, online learning takes place when at least part of a student’s learning takes place online, instead of “in real life” or face-to-face in the classroom.

Not all online learning is alike, however.

The WDMCS Online Learning Committee, formed in 2014 to explore and expand online learning options for students in our district, categorizes online classes into two types: online-only courses and web-blended courses.

  • Online-Only Courses (“online-only”)
    • Online-only courses are held entirely online. There are no face-to-face meetings with teachers, except at the request of the student. These classes are very independent.
  • Web-Blended Course (“blended”)
    • Blended courses are held partially online and partially in-class. There are some face-to-face meetings with teachers, but not every day. Since these classes do not meet every day, they are fairly independent.

Through blended learning, students experience a combination of digital online instruction, traditional direct instruction, and individualized one-on-one time. Teachers are better able to personalize each student’s learning and give them any extra help and attention they need to become proficient in the curriculum. A blended course requires independence from students, but the teacher is still there to guide learning, answer questions, and help solve problems.

If you think your child would benefit from blended learning, you can learn more in their school’s course catalog or by contacting:

  • Carrie Jacobs, Valley High School instructional coach and district online learning coordinator, 515-633-4180
  • Erica Whittle, Valley High School associate principal, 515-633-4000


Watch the West Des Moines Community Schools website and social media for the rest of three-part series on blended learning.