It’s a mystery to me.
As Kentucky’s K to 12 education system wrestles with the challenges of putting together a full academic year of online learning in case the COVID Virus makes in-person student attendance at schools impossible, a major, long-running Kentucky source of knowledge about how to do year-long distance seems to be known by only a few across the state.
Beginning years ago (see here and our 2010 report here), BIPPS was writing about the Barren Academy of Virtual and Expanded Learning (BAVEL). BAVEL is an online, Kentucky-based school system serving students in Grades 6 to 12 who, for whatever reason, need an alternative to in-person attendance at their local school.
BAVEL has been in operation now for more than 15 years. It clearly has extensive experience with doing digital right with students who don’t go to a brick and mortar schoolhouse. BAVEL boasts over 600 high school graduates and over 2,500 individual students that have transitioned through the program who might very well have become dropouts if this digitally-based public school (it’s run by the Barren County Public School District) option had not been available.
But, with the COVID-19 virus wreaking havoc on last year’s school term and offering the potential to do a lot more major damage in the coming 2020-21 school year, making the need for quality distance learning more important than ever, it seems few have an understanding of the authentic online learning experience BAVEL has to offer.
BAVEL’s low profile is starting to change. BAVEL is actually hosting an informational session for school districts across the state today. Hopefully many will take advantage of this largely under-tapped resource, because most have lots to learn about successful online learning.
“Many individuals have a misconception about what a true online learning experience is like,” says Phillip Napier, Director of Communications and Assessment at BAVEL. “No doubt, the naysayers insist that they do not see the value in the virtual style of learning. And many of them have most likely had a less than pleasurable experience in a so-called online course. However, I would challenge them to check out the experience BAVEL has built to meet the needs of our students.”
Still, a lot remains to be done. I recently talked to Renee Shaw, the very knowledgeable host of KET’s Kentucky Tonight, and she had never heard about BAVEL. That’s noteworthy since she just Tweeted that her forthcoming July 20, 2020 show on KET will deal with the issues schools face to open up in the COVID-19 environment.
Coming up this MON July 20th on @KyTonightKET at 8pmET – How are KY K-12 public schools preparing to reopen for the upcoming school year? Tweet us your questions. Panelists so far @EricKen83 @ksbanews; @KyDeptofEd Kelly Foster; @corrieshull Jeff Co school board member. (1/2)
— Renee Shaw (@ReneeKET) July 16, 2020
Perhaps BAVEL could offer some ideas about planning that simply must be made to deal with the possibility that schools simply don’t open at all, or open only to have to close later due to infections in the school population.
Going forward, I hope that BAVEL gets added into the discussions and planning about how to do long-term distance learning right. With its 15 years of online learning experience to share, this Kentucky diamond in the rough needs to be polished up and put to work in every school district in the state.