October 10th, 2019
In our technologically-advanced world, online classical Christian education is fast emerging as one of the premier pedagogies. There are now more than a dozen online classical Christian schools and literally thousands of students enrolled in them. So why one more? Because, while we are elated to see classical Christian education flourishing, we believe we can still do more to help teachers serve their students. Our experience has been the best classical educators typically struggle to fulfill their calling in at least four ways:
Insufficient income. Classical educators often struggle to make ends meet. Even the best situation for an online teacher is rarely adequate to support their entire household. As a result, few breadwinners make teaching in classical schools their full-time vocation despite gifts, advanced education, and the deep desire to teach.
Lack of independence. For various reasons, teachers at brick and mortar schools are often limited by the amount of time they can afford to spend developing lesson plans, curriculum, and themselves professionally. Even online teachers who have a bit more flexibility are similarly limited in ways that allow them to best transfer their skills and knowledge to the student.
Low efficiency and high burn-out. Many online teachers have heavy workloads that impede their teaching effectiveness. One reason is because the financial curve diminishes exponentially. The only way for an online teacher to increase his income is to increase his student load. But long before he can make a sustainable income, he exceeds his capacity to adequately teach such a large body of students.
Inadequate online teaching tools. One of the biggest challenges and learning curves for both teachers and students is navigating multiple complex teaching tools. This inevitably creates an unnecessary level of anxiety and frustration; in turn, it hinders a quality online educational experience for everyone involved.
At Kepler, we believe we have found a unique way to combine cutting-edge technology with ancient wisdom to meet these and other challenges teachers are facing today.
We start with the belief that teaching is more than a career for most educators; it is a vocation. This is especially true for the Christian educator whose calling to teach is an outworking of his or her faith in Christ. In her essay, “Teaching as a Christian Vocation,” Minori Nagahara explains: “For many Christian teachers, the act of teaching—of creating opportunities and conditions which allow students’ learning and growth to take place—is not just a career choice, but is part of their vocation, their calling from God.”
In other words, if it were merely a matter of putting food on the table and paying the bills, many who teach would pursue entirely different career paths that were more lucrative. Since a different career path is not an option for those who are called to teach, Kepler’s mission is to serve those committed teachers by striving to meet the challenges mentioned above in the following ways:
As it relates to insufficient income, Kepler’s business model is to support committed teachers and help them serve their students. In other words, our primary client is the teacher who is called to be an educator. As a result, Kepler passes on as much of the tuition income as possible to the teacher, while also providing the necessary tools to help them educate their students and expand their influence. Our goal is to significantly exceed all current pay scales in online Classical Christian Education by offering a 65% - 75% “share” on a scale determined by education, experience, and time with Kepler.
As it relates to independence, Kepler allows teachers to have as much freedom as possible in how and when they teach. Within reasonable guidelines to ensure quality education, teachers may teach as they see fit and their style becomes part of what makes their courses unique. Teachers are not only free to develop their own curriculum, but Kepler will provide resources and training to help teachers build their influence and student body.
As it relates to burn-out and low efficiency, Kepler advocates the flipped-classroom approach to online teaching. Either through pre-recorded, static lectures (or a single large-class lecture) combined with several smaller, segmented recitations, teachers can increase their student body without necessarily increasing their preparatory commitments. This allows teachers to grow their influence and income while still maintaining a close working relationship with individual students.
While not required of every teacher, Kepler would encourage this “Oxford method” advocated by C.S. Lewis and others, because video courses and web technology has made it more effective in recent times. The end result is that teachers are significantly more effective in their teaching without reducing the personalized quality of the course.
For example, this method was piloted through Roman Roads Classroom with great success. Jim Nance, who taught Logic 5 days a week at a flagship Classical Christian brick and mortar school for 25 years prior to teaching Logic for Roman Roads Classroom with a flipped 2 days/wk classroom, discovered the Roman Roads Classroom classes were much more effective, yet only created a fraction of the teacher workload. Similarly, I (Scott Postma) simultaneously taught at an online Classical Christian school 4 days per week and Roman Roads Classroom once per week with similar results in spite of a quarter of the meeting time.
As it relates to inadequate online teaching tools, Kepler is using Agile software development to build and systematically innovate on a platform made for educators. All the tools an online teacher needs—registration management, classroom management, and video conferencing—will be in one, well-designed place. The platform will be clean and easy to use for both teachers and students. From registration to graduation, Kepler’s platform will eliminate excess busy work for teachers and the confusion-driven anxiety that deters so many students and parents from online education.