Podcast: Julie Young on ASU Prep Digital

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As an elementary Florida school administrator in 1996, Julie Young was given an opportunity to launch an online school. There were only a couple of small examples at the time, so most administrators would have run the other way. Young waded into the chance to better serve disenfranchised students emboldened by Florida Commissioner Frank Brogan’s invitation to innovate.

Young spent almost 18 years building Florida Virtual into the leading statewide online learning program.

The state implemented performance funding. Florida Virtual was on paid only when students successfully completed a course. It reinforced the teams interest in “looking at every student as one that can be successful,” said Young. It changed how they worked and how the recruited–it was all about student success.

District partnerships were also key to success at Florida Virtual–they were key to statewide.

ASU Prep Digital

Three years ago, Young took these insights about student success partnerships to the leadership of ASU Prep Digital. It’s an online high school that is part of Arizona State’s goal to transform education–K-12 as well as higher education.

ASU Prep Digital supports ASU Preparatory Academy, a network of a dozen PreK-12 schools sponsored by ASU.

ASU Prep Digital also offers more than 40 high school courses and 200 college courses to full and part-time students. Enrollment has grown to over 20,000 enrollments nationally and internationally including 600 full-time students.

Through more than 50 district partnerships in Arizona, ASU Prep Digital helps schools cope with an extreme teacher shortage by filling gaps in math and science staffing. “We can hire from anywhere in the world to get the best talent,” explained Young. “With a learning facilitator on site and our teacher online, we create a strong learning ecosystem.”

ASU Prep Digital also mentors teachers new to a subject. For a physics teacher teaching chemistry, they provide proven content and support. They can also provide direct co-teaching with teachers in the classroom.

Young views work with partner schools as collaboratives. She asks, “What problem are you trying to solve, what opportunity do you want to offer?”

Concurrent enrollment courses from ASU Prep Digital provide a unique opportunity for high school students to start college early and gain credits from tier 1 research university that will transfer anywhere.

For only $600, high school students can earn three college credits. “It’s like a 70% discount,” said Young.  The college credits also advantage students in admissions.

“We mapped high school core courses to ASU college courses,” said Young. “It’s an on-ramp for high school students to start college and they don’t have to leave, and they don’t have to take all college courses.”

With 200 pathways into majors, high school students can test-drive college major while at home.

The concurrent enrollment program is part of President Crow’s commitment to reduce time and cost to degree, “to be measured by whom we include, not exclude.” explained Young.

Next at ASU Prep Digital

Young is excited about the adaptive learning tools being incorporated into college classes at ASU.

“New courses like BioBeyond, created by Ariel Anbar of the School Of Earth and Space Exploration, create an incredible biology experience,” said Young. The course launched in August with great results.

There is also a new chemistry course that that includes deep dives into topics like cancer that makes learning highly relevant

“The next step is working with colleges on modular components of concurrent courses, both high school, and college,” said Young. This will allow learners to turn on and off components (e.g., a high school student can choose not to participate in college components).

“ASU Prep Digital seeks to offer a superior product that meets the needs of a broader range of students,” said Young.

Key Takeaways:
[2:02] What interested Julie about online, digital learning 25 years ago?
[4:29] In the early years of Florida Virtual School, what does Julie think they got right?
[8:22] Julie speaks about her legislature during these early years and some of the unique incentives that ended up driving major change in her work.
[13:07] Does Julie agree that partnering with other school districts led to major success for Florida Virtual School?
[16:57] Julie provides some background on ASU Prep Digital and her current role with them.
[20:00] In addition to supporting the ASU Prep Academy, Julie offers full and part-time learning opportunities to kids in Arizona across the country and even around the world. Julie elaborates about this work she does (on a part-time basis) for both high school and college courses.
[23:40] How does ASU balance its offering of more than 100 college courses?
[27:30] How do students enroll and gain college credit through ASU Prep Digital?
[28:55] Do the online course offerings give ASU a leg-up in admissions?
[30:48] Julie describes what their fulltime program is like at ASU Prep Digital.
[35:13] Julie speaks about their course roadmap!
[40:40] Is Julie encouraged by the way high school innovators and innovative programs are helping to inform or transform higher ed?
[44:26] After 24 years of teaching and leading online, is Julie optimistic about the future of online learning?
[46:15] Tom and Jessica thank Julie for joining the podcast!

Mentioned in This Episode:
ASU Prep Digital
ASU Educational Outreach
Florida Virtual School
ASU Preparatory Academy
Arizona State University (ASU)
Getting Smart Ep. 123: “Julie Young on Providing Online College Prep”
iPrep Academy
Broward County Public Schools
District Franchises of Florida Virtual School (FLVS)
President Michael Crow of ASU Prep Digital
ASU Prep Digital Course: BioBeyond
“ASU Prep: Blended College Prep with a Little Extra Kick,” by Getting Smart Staff
“Arizona State Accelerates Progress with Adaptive Active Courses,” by Tom Vander Ark

For more see


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