Apex Learning's Application for the Maine Online Learning Program
1. The online learning provider must be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices and operations.
Demonstrate how your organization meets this requirement and provide documentation that confirms this. URLs linking to supporting evidence are also acceptable.
All content, programs, policies, employment practices, and operations of Apex Learning are nonsectarian. Apex Learning is a provider of digital curriculum to public schools. As such, its programs and policies adhere to the requirements regarding bias put forth by public school laws. Apex Learning would be happy to undertake any bias review process, nonsectarian or otherwise.
2. Each course offered for a unit of credit must correlate with applicable state-adopted academic standards prior to being offered. All courses must include assessments.
Demonstrate how your organization meets this requirement and provide documentation that confirms this. Provide an example of a correlation report that demonstrates how a course offered by your organization aligns with state standards. Upon request, within 5 business days an approved Online Learning Provider must be prepared to provide either the Department, or the school administrative unit, a correlation report for any online course being offered.
Courses in the Apex Learning digital curriculum correlate to federal and Maine state standards. Summative, diagnostic, and formative assessments are integrated throughout each Apex Larning course.
Data on correlations can be found at http://apexlearning.com/Curriculum/Correlations.htm. Please use the username correlate and the password standards.
3. A teacher employed by the online learning provider and providing instruction to students must hold a valid teaching certificate in each content area being taught or receive approval from the commissioner to teach the course.
Demonstrate how your organization meets this requirement and provide documentation that confirms this. Provide a list of those teachers who teach Maine students that includes: the name of the certified teacher, the content areas in which they are certified, the State in which their certification was obtained, and the expiration date of the certification. This list must be updated June 30th and December 30th of each year for which the online learning provider is listed, to reflect changes following the initial application and approval.
Apex Learning courses can be taught by both teachers provided by an individual school as well as by Apex Learning provided teachers.
Apex Learning’s teachers are certified high school teachers with an average of 21 years of teaching experience. Each of our teachers has at least 2 years experience teaching in their subject area, and a minimum of 9 years of total teaching experience. In addition to a strong basis in traditional classroom education, our teachers have extensive online teaching experience: Most of the Apex instructors have been with Apex Learning for over 5 years. Apex Learning’s teachers have a strong commitment to academic excellence and to our mission of bringing courses to students who would otherwise not have access to them. All Apex Learning teachers regularly participate in professional development on online teaching strategies and best practices.
As of August 27, 2010, Apex Learning had no students enrolled in Maine. Apex Learning can provide a listing of its qualified teachers and their certifications upon request.
4. A teacher employed by the online learning provider must receive appropriate preservice and in-service training pertaining to the organization of the online classroom, programs and courses, the technical aspects of online education, the monitoring of student assessment and other pertinent training.
Describe the pre-service and in-service training, as outlined above, that is provided to teachers in your organization.
Each new Apex Learning online teacher receives extensive training in effective online teaching methods. This includes:
- One-on-one orientation and training conducted by Apex Learning’s Instruction Department who has 8 years of experience training and guiding a team of online teachers and 30 years of classroom experience.
- Online training sessions on an ongoing basis to refresh and continue to develop skills.
- Pairing each new online teacher with an experienced peer teacher for regular coaching and suggestions.
- Weekly follow-ups by the Instruction Department
- Access to instructional resources including a comprehensive instructional manual with practical navigation suggestions as well as teaching tips.
Apex Learning believes that teaching standards for online courses should be just as high as for a traditional classroom and is committed to providing fully qualified teaching staff. Apex Learning requires its teachers to be certified in their subject areas and experienced in teaching secondary students. Apex Learning’s online teachers have extensive interaction with students on a consistent basis just as a traditional classroom teacher would. They provide students with regular feedback, evaluate and grade student work, lead online discussions, and actively engage with students throughout the curriculum.Apex Learning’s online teachers use a variety of tools to communicate with students:
- Message Center communication (internal email) - Apex Learning teachers are to respond to student text correspondence within one school day.
- Weekly office hours in which the teacher is available for immediate feedback by email and/or by phone. Apex Learning teachers are to hold at least one one-hour office hour each week, and most hold them more often.
- Periodic telephone calls.
- Teacher moderated online class discussions.
- Written and comprehensive feedback on assignments. Apex Learning teachers are to grade and return assignments within three school days. They provide instructional feedback on assignments, either embedded within each assignment or through a separate communication. They also use this vehicle to provide encouragement, praise and additional direction to students.
- Announcements posted in the learning environment.
Apex Learning sets high teaching standards and has a comprehensive program for monitoring its online teachers to ensure instruction is consistently of the highest quality. Automatically generated reports, validated by spot-checks, are used to verify that student assignments are graded and returned in three days or less. Apex Learning’s instructional team also spot-checks emails and discussion postings to verify teachers are responding to students in one school day or less. The instructional team also periodically reviews email content and assignment feedback to ensure it is of a high quality with a tone and style appropriate to teacher-student communication.
Apex Learning courses can also be taught by onsite teachers. In those scenarios, the Apex Learning learning management system provides powerful tracking and reporting tools to allow onsite district-provided teachers immediate access to data regarding their students.
5. The online learning provider must verify ongoing student attendance and progress and performance in each course as documented by ongoing assessments in a proctored environment and provide examples of student course work.
Describe how attendance, progress and performance are assessed, and also the level to which assessments are typically proctored online and/or locally.
When taught by an Apex Learning provided teacher, Apex Learning provides extensive outreach services to help ensure each student has a successful online course experience. Every Monday throughout the semester, Apex Learning’s Academic Outreach team meets to review student progress data to identify students at risk of not successfully completing their courses. The Academic Outreach team also reviews data by school to identify any schools that have a significant percentage of their students not making adequate progress.
If a problem is identified, the Academic Outreach team will contact the online teacher to understand whether the teacher and in-school mentor have identified the reason for a student’s slow progress and whether a plan is in place. The Academic Outreach team will also contact the customer support team to determine whether the school has contacted Apex Learning about any technical or other issues.
Having gathered as much information as is available, the Academic Outreach team makes a determination whether to contact the school directly. Apex Learning will contact mentors, site coordinators, or school principals as appropriate and provide assistance in resolving any issues that may be impeding student progress.
6. Administrators, teachers and other educational staff employed by the online learning provider must comply with the fingerprinting and national criminal history record check requirements as set forth in section 6103.
Provide evidence of the protocol your organization uses to meet national criminal history record checks. Demonstrate how your organization meets this requirement and provide documentation that confirms this.
Every Apex Learning employee undergoes a criminal background check prior to an offer of employment. Apex Learning teachers undergo fingerprinting as a matter of course prior to receiving their state certificates. Apex Learning teachers are fingerprinted at the state level.
7. The online learning program must comply with the State's information technology accessibility policies and standards. Maine’s information technology accessibility policies and standards can be found here:
a. Web accessibility
b. Software accessibility
Describe how your organization complies with these standards and/or provide a copy of the organization’s policy document that demonstrates evidence of this.
Apex Learning offers a browser-based web interface providing Section 508 compliance in accordance with paragraph 1194.22 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Standard web techniques are used to ensure compliance. For example, alternative text transcripts are provided for all audio and other non-text elements; image maps are not used; and tabular data presentation includes row and column headers. In addition, flicker rates for animations are maintained within the prescribed frequency range and plug-ins required to interact with the content are compliant with Section 508. Apex Learning strives to comply with W3C guidelines within a dynamic online environment.