Reflecting on the Past Year, and Looking Ahead

Posted on August 06 2008

It's hard to believe, but it's been a little over a year since we launched The American Academy. And what a year it's been! Truly, I can say it's been one of the most rewarding years in my professional life (and in my personal life, but that's another story for another time...).

I came from the enterprise software world, building very large systems for retailers and state, local and federal government customers. That experience has given me an interesting view of the world of technology in education, and in particular in online learning.

I feel very fortunate to have been given the chance to apply my systems background to launching The American Academy. I feel doubly fortunate to be able to team up with our school's Principal, Rebekah Richards, whose career in online learning and experiences from the earliest days of "the virtual school" gives us a significant advantage as we quickly learn and adapt to the world of education and Web 2.0.

When I first started with TAA I was indoctrinated into the "world of the edtech S's" - SIS, LMS, CMS...and on and on. I'm used to it - every industry has its "TLAs", three letter abbreviations, and you've got to know them and sling them around with ease. So I joined the cause and soon was using all of them in a single sentence (well, maybe two sentences...)!

At the end of the day though, I like to break things down into simpler, functional terms and then start to figure out what's needed. Maybe even ask a few questions that, in my ignorance, are considered heresy in the industry. It's one of the few things the "new guy" (or gal) can do while he/she still has "new" status.

Like...why do we need an SIS? Seems like a lot of stuff to help run "the office", and in the online world we don't really have an "office".

Or...where is the notion in all of these systems that a student is a customer, and more importantly to us an online customer? brick and mortar schools, there are cheaters. Not many, but some. Few get caught, and the fear of getting caught might be a deterrent in and of itself. In the online world, guess what? There are cheaters. How far can we really go in the online world to "eliminate" cheating? Is the key to try to eliminate it, or to simply set the bar high enough to discourage it most of the time?

Is that a collective gasp of horror I hear?

If you've read this far, I'll now answer the question at least 73% of you are asking: "Gregg, where the heck are you going with this blog post?"

Well, let's call this post "the teaser". This is the first in a series of posts where I'll discuss what I see as the basic operational building blocks of an online school, the challenges we face and the fundamental elements of what we're calling School-as-a-ServiceTM.

Stay tuned!