ELOs provide students with opportunities to earn credit in out-of-school (OST) settings. They can take many forms including volunteer work, non-school sporting activities, and work-based learning-even family trips! Those are the types of activities we promote often as “project-based learning,” but we’ve ensured online courses also qualify.
Ultimately we’d like to see widespread adoption of unlimited ELO credit-bearing policies. In the meantime, however, we’re happy to promote them as elective or recovery credit. Ohio’s Credit Flex Program, set up in 2010, is a solid model that supports the shift away from “seat time” to “anywhere, anytime” learning. Requiring teachers to manage burdensome paperwork associated with custom learning contracts while at the same time reducing school funding commensurate with the amount time students spend in an ELOs, has the potential to disrupt already weakened public education systems on a massive scale.
Community partners have been promoting ELOs as a solution to address very real opportunity gaps for children in low-income communities. Much of this work is coordinated through 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Partners develop standards-aligned programs that are implemented in after school and summer programs. Such efforts provide cover for the credit-flex, “hackable” education agenda that is our long-term goal. Another strategy we’re using is to promote ELOs as a way to expand access to “extras” like art, music, and foreign languages have been systematically eliminated from neighborhood schools. Philanthropic support flows freely, because Out of School Time (OST) settings are optimal environments for scaling digital learning, character education, and collection of social emotional learning (SEL) data. Partner dependence on funding also makes them easy to control.