Studying Outschool's model for teaching and learning

For Parents Nov 12, 2019
Outschool logic model created by MBZ labs.

When Outschool first started, it was easy for one person to see everything available just by visiting every page. Now we've grown larger and more sophisticated in almost every direction: a broader selection of classes, new and improved policies, more robust website features, and personalized experiences.

Outschool is committed to understanding our impact and improving learner outcomes. As we grow, we want to consider the perspective of outside experts as a way to fulfill our mission.

For the first time, we recently brought in a third party to study Outschool’s product and its potential impact. That third party was MBZ Labs, who bring education research expertise and experience working with major players in education technology, including Microsoft and Nearpod.

As a result of the study, MBZ created a four-part logic model to explain their findings about how Outschool works and why it matters. This logic model organizes everything that happens on Outschool into Inputs, Activities, Outputs, and Outcomes. This post is an explanation of MBZ's work and findings.

Inputs describe the actions teachers, learners, and learners’ families perform on Outschool.

Parents create custom learning experiences for their children by managing learners’ experiences. This involves creating a profile, enrolling in the best classes for the learner, and supporting the learner throughout the class.

Teachers, of course, are busy creating awesome online classes for their learners. This involves everything a teacher does before, during, and after a class is delivered. Outschool teachers have the freedom to design their own curriculum, teach class in the style that best suits their personality and learners’ needs, and utilize helpful Outschool features to chat with parents and review class ratings.

Learners get the chance to browse and pick a class with their parents, participate in live video chat classes using discussion boards and live chat to interact with teachers and other learners, as well as submit assignments created by their teachers.

Activities, in this case, refers to the benefits to learners, teachers, and parents that make Outschool uniquely valuable.

The Outschool marketplace is a dynamic, constantly improving community thanks largely to the active parent community. Through providing feedback, recommendations, and ratings, the parent community helps to improve the Outschool product, the quality of instruction, and the variety and quality of class offerings.

The marketplace model allows for healthy competition, resulting in excellent offerings to learners and their families. Teachers have the freedom to determine the best teaching practices to reach their learners, and the most engaging class topics to offer. The effective pedagogy used by Outschool teachers includes instructional methods like multimodal presentations, dialogue and questioning, and the flexible pacing of content delivery.

These all lead to learners getting the chance to build high-quality relationships. Learners get digital facetime with experts who would likely be unreachable by these learners in most cases without Outschool. Additionally, learners get the chance to connect with peers from around the world who share their learning interests and needs.

Activities done on Outschool lead to certain Outputs, or results of users performing actions using the product.

The Outschool marketplace is thriving, with over 22,000 unique learners enrolled in classes during 2018, and over 90 percent of families using Outschool likely to recommend it to others.

One of the major factors contributing to the success of the marketplace is the access learners have to diverse classes. Class sizes on Outschool are small, and 90% of classes have a learner to teacher ratio of 12:1 or lower. There are almost 10,000 classes on Outschool open for enrollment, and about half of these classes now have learners from two or more countries enrolled.

The numbers also show that learners taking Outschool classes are highly engaged. Their class activity rating averages 4.75/5, and over 85% of learners stay enrolled for the duration of their courses.

MBZ found several potential benefits, or Outcomes, of the Outschool model.

Learners on Outschool get the chance to choose what they learn. This choice causes intrinsic motivation, one of the important factors in developing a habit of lifelong learning. Additionally, learners who get to exercise autonomy in their education show improved learning outcomes.

Best teaching practices are supported by the model. Outschool classes are highly interactive, support children’s ability to learn, and allow for multimodal teaching, which is the process of presenting information to learners in a variety of different formats. In addition to improving learning outcomes, multimodal instruction helps learners develop important media literacy skills.

Because there are so many opportunities for one to one interaction, as well as smaller class sizes, teachers have the potential to know their learners better in online classes than face-to-face. Online learning gives young learners the chance to develop real-world skills including collaborative engagement, critical thinking, creative development, and social skills. Through the personalization of content and instructional strategies, online learning can even reduce inequity in education.

Using the results of the study conducted by MBZ Labs, as well as our own research and processes, Outschool will continue to work on understanding and improving our impact. We find it valuable to bring in third parties to help us and hold us to account, and we will publish their results in articles like this one.

We hope that this description offers you one perspective of how teachers and families come together on Outschool to create amazing learning experiences. We look forward to welcoming more of you to our fast-growing marketplace.

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Gerard Dawson

Gerard Dawson is a teacher, parent and writer for Outschool.