James Ure, President, Adam Hailstone, CMO, Anya Yeager, COO,Ben Brown, Director of Business Development & Nels Jensen, CE
Online education opens up many possibilities for students and families alike; it allows learning beyond the norm. With online education, a learner has access to unlimited topics and global experts in niche subjects—which otherwise is not affordable or imaginable for many. Online programs allow people of a broad age group to learn at their own pace, without inhibitions, and without compromising their other responsibilities.
However, there are several issues associated with online education. Online has not lived up to the hype over the last decade. Many students complain that online learning is boring. The lack of flexibility and human connection has induced several concerns for parents; they are worried about the course structure and children’s overall learning experience. Many feel that it limits social interaction and involves the use of complex technology.
Utah-based Williamsburg Learning (WL) addresses these challenges with its online, blended, and adventure-based learning solution. “We believe that offering an online-only learning experience isn’t enough; it is also important to establish real connections with people—in-person,” says Anya Yeager, chief operating officer, Williamsburg Learning. Through its customizable curriculum, live-online instruction, world-class mentors, and in-person adventures, the organization cultivates the necessary skills to succeed in the modern world while offering students and parents the freedom and safety that online education provides.
Creators of the Robust Solution
Nels Jensen, an education entrepreneur, co-founded WL in 2008 as a private brick-and-mortar school focused on classical liberal arts and leadership with his best friend, James Ure. Both experienced schooling from home growing up and longed for more interaction with peers and adults in a thriving learning community.
This desire led them to create an accredited online academic program that students can experience from home. Teachers at Williamsburg facilitate transformational learning experiences and help them learn ‘how to think—not what to think.’ “The goal is to provide affordable access to transformational education to students across the world,” mentions Adam Hailstone, Chief Marketing Officer at Williamsburg Learning.
A Blended Approach to Online Education
As a part of their online learning solution, WL offers coursework combined with an in-person collaborative component that enables students to learn and enjoy the curriculum. It comprises live interactive classes, a rigorous curriculum taught by inspiring mentors combined with an emphasis on character education. The company creates punctuated in-person experiences, allowing students to form deep friendships and bonds with fellow students.
At its core, WL’s complete—yet radically unconventional—education programs combine liberal arts, leadership, and technology to give a child an inspiring, well-rounded education.
We believe that offering an online-only learning experience isn’t enough; it is also important to establish real connections with people—in-person
Emphasizing their three-fold focus, Anya Yeager mentions, “We embrace and harness the impact of technology without sacrificing human connection and prepare students to do the same. Our students become comfortable and competent with digital tools, communication, and technology.” Adam Hailstone adds, “The thing that sets us apart is leveraging technology to create human associations, not remove it.”
For example, WL’s liberal arts curriculum empowers students to engage in the great conversations that have enveloped the human race for millennia by reading, experiencing, and writing about the most influential works of literature, art, and philosophy. The program also emphasizes student leadership—a character-based and skills-driven component of their curriculum emphasizing hands-on, student-led community-based service projects. Working with inspiring mentors who model principled leadership, students make commitments, practice time management, explore the importance of strong character, and hold themselves accountable for their accomplishments.
Creating Unique Transformational Learning Experiences
Today more than ever, parents and teachers alike want children to have the courage and tenacity to step off the beaten path, define their way through the world, and set a strong and positive example for others. However, it is easier said than done. To make this happen, a child must learn to make decisions based on principles instead of peer pressure and develop the skills to maximize their energy, time, and relationships. WL weaves these major lessons into the fabric of every course to help children practice leadership every day.
The company searches the globe to find just that kind of mentor to lead each of their courses. WL’s mentors ask questions instead of giving lectures and challenge students to take ownership of their education for their reasons—preparing them to live life on their terms. WL’s programs encourage students to reflect upon learning experiences—what they have learned and how it applies.
Other activities supported by the company where students experience transformational learning are outdoor adventure camps, worldwide travel trips, and what the students call “burger meets,” where students get together in person throughout the country and world.
“By participating in the Elevation outdoor camp, students modify their relationships with themselves and others. They experience a sense of belonging that is rarely felt elsewhere, become more aware of the role they want to play in the world, and increase their respect for nature and life itself,” offers Anya.
In other words, students are freed in terms of their flexibility to do more, travel with their family, and participate in numerous extracurricular activities instead of being stuck in a brick-and-mortar school setting, doing tasks that take up their entire day.
Fostering Flexibility and Personalization
One of the unique aspects of WL is its ability to focus on customer demand. “We understand the clients’ objectives and needs; we then deliver a program that mirrors a buffet model where individuals and their families can pick and choose the aspects that work for them,” reveals Anya. To ensure that their transformational learning programs align with the constantly evolving 21st century education requirements, WL carries out frequent weekly surveys with their customers. Twice a semester, WL also takes feedback from students and rates and gives out awards to mentors based on the student ratings and feedback.
We embrace and harness the impact of technology without sacrificing human connection and prepare students to do the same
With such unparalleled capabilities, the firm has ignited several success stories in the realm of transformational learning. A particular instance that stands out is the story involving a student with a brain tumor who underwent multiple surgeries and hospital stays. With the help of the student’s mentors and WL’s engaging curriculum, WL was able to help the student succeed during this challenging time.
One of WL’s client testimonials reads: “Williamsburg Academy was the best decision we made regarding our son’s education. We settled on Williamsburg Academy because of its emphasis on experiential learning, working in teams, and effective use of technology that our son needed to prepare for the coming age. The mentors and curriculum at Williamsburg helped our child develop critical thinking skills to reason through topics and logical fallacies that we had begun in our homeschooling program. Williamsburg Academy will provide the support you need as a parent through their online meetings, assignments, grades, and mentor conferences.”
Shaping the Future of Education
WL’s continued success is due to its highly collaborative team and the core values its employees live by. The WL team comprises people with extensive experience from different walks of life, cultures, and communities.
Presently, about 1,600 children around the country and the world attend WL’s programs. As an education service provider, the firm has prepared thousands of students for post-secondary education and helped nurture a life of meaning as their study of classical education is intertwined with today’s ideas and problems to be solved. WL’s courses and programs have also been made available to various schools and individuals. “We directly partner with curriculum service providers, school districts, and charter schools to offers our solutions and services. Our current clientele includes school districts and charters in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, California, and Alaska. We are in talks with other states as well,” informs Anya.