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Graduation Alliance deploys Chromebooks to help at-risk students earn diplomas

         

Editor’s word: These days’s visitor blogger is Gregg Rosann, President, Co-Founder, and Chief Know-how Officer of Graduation Alliance, based in Salt Lake City. Graduation Alliance works with school districts around the country to help students facing challenging life circumstances to graduate. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

High school can be a tough time for any student. But the students we work with face challenges that many of their peers couldn’t even imagine. They may work to support family members who are ill or unemployed, be homeless or have been bullied in school. Or they may have young children. Many of our students haven’t been in a classroom in years.

Since 2007, we’ve been giving students like this the flexibility, academic interventions and social support they need to get back on track and moving forward toward graduation. Working in partnership with local public school districts, we provide a complete suite of online learning courses that are free to students and allow them to earn credits toward graduation at their own pace. We also offer several layers of human support, which is essential to helping students make education a priority.

Because few of these students are in a position to attend a brick-and-mortar school, we provide laptops and internet access to our students as part of the program. We deployed Chromebooks to about 600 students this school year. We determined that moving to Chromebooks from the PCs and tablets we were providing could help us reduce our cost of ownership by significantly reducing the need for technical support. We also like that Chromebooks are essentially “log on and go.” Students don’t have to worry about a multistep process just to get on the web. Also, the speed and simplicity of the Chrome browser helps our students access our online learning program and get to work faster, so they can be more productive.

We manage students’ Internet access through a proxy server that we control though the Chromebook management console. The ability to limit Internet access (which we do when students fall behind in their coursework), turn off machines, and control policies from a central console is very helpful. It allows us to make sure students are taking full advantage of the program. Also, there’s no need to send a Chromebook back to the home office to be reset before it’s issued to another student, as user information is siloed, encrypted and easily wiped remotely. That’s a huge plus for an organization like ours with a nationally distributed student base.

The most important thing about Chromebooks is that they just make sense for our students, because they’ve grown up with the web. Asking them to use a desktop app to access their coursework is a foreign concept. But, if you give them instructions to go straight to a website, they understand. That’s their mindset.

Chromebooks help us focus on our students, and allow our students to focus on moving forward toward graduation. And when a student who once saw nothing but obstacles instead sees their name on a diploma, it’s an amazing thing.