How our online courses work
Students have the flexibility to start any of Sevenstar’s courses on any Monday of the year. Once a student is enrolled in an online course, they will receive an email containing their login credentials and start-up instructions. Each student uses a temporary password to log in to their online classroom for the first time, but will be able to change their password later. The course environment is beautifully designed to be visually pleasing and intuitive. To ensure that students can access lesson tools and materials on their device, a system check is conveniently available on our login page.
Student orientation is built into each course. Our approach to student orientation is to provide the right resources and information at the right time. Experienced students will be able to complete the orientation in minutes, while new students are still taught all the information they need to be successful. The student orientation concludes with a short test confirming students are knowledgeable about the course and asking them to introduce themselves to their instructor.
Student Orientation ensures that students have the tools they need to succeed in their course. It shows students how to navigate their course, complete their work, and contact their instructor or get technical support. It also makes them aware of policies, procedures, and expectations.
Online classroom experience
Before students begin their first day as online learners, they are introduced to their online instructor through a welcome email. As students begin their coursework, they will use the patterns and practices they perfected during orientation to navigate the environment and interact with course material. The online lesson content is engaging and interactive, while also providing all the academic resources and accountability needed to thrive.
Online courses are designed to teach concepts, provide practice problems, and deliver assignments and assessments. Students will take each assessment one time to test mastery of the material presented. Even though course content is primarily delivered through the online lessons and not by the online instructor, students interact regularly with their instructor by providing feedback on assessments and assignments. The online instructor’s role is not to lecture the student, but rather to provide support and guidance throughout the course.
Our instructors engage students through discussion forums, course mail, and scheduled calls and chats. The online instructor will support the student by answering questions related to the subject matter, grade non-computerized assessments, and provide appropriate feedback. The online instructor will also encourage students to stay on pace towards timely completion of the course modules.
Assignment Due Dates and Breaks
Students are expected to stay on pace and work independently to complete their coursework. Target due dates for each assignment and assessment are provided to help students stay on track. Due dates are automatically generated based on the start and end date of the course. There will be breaks during the year when no assignments will become due or new assignments will be scheduled for completion. If needed, students may complete coursework, submit assignments, and take exams on any time or day of the year. To avoid late penalties, students will need to submit assignments within 14 days of the target due date.
Students will not have target due dates and instructors are not required to respond, grade, or conduct office hours on the following dates:
- Saturdays and Sundays
- Easter break (Observed from the Thursday before through the Monday following Easter)
- Memorial Day (Observed the last Monday of May.)
- Independence Day (Observed on the fourth day of July. If Independence Day falls on a Saturday, it will be observed on the Friday prior to. If it falls on a Sunday, it will be observed the Monday following Independence Day.)
- Labor Day (Observed the first Monday in September.)
- Thanksgiving break (Thanksgiving is observed on the fourth Thursday of November. The break will include the Wednesday prior to and the Friday following Thanksgiving.)
- Christmas break (Observed for two weeks around December 25th and January 1st with the goal of returning to coursework on January 3rd.)
Sometimes technical problems arise even when students are surrounded by assistance, training and resources. Sevenstar’s learning environment features a searchable “help” knowledge base through an icon link available on every page. Also available is our User Support Portal. The User Support portal provides students with quick answers and downloadable resources to get immediate assistance on common issues. It also provides steps to take if these resources do not answer their questions, including a ticket form to ask a live support specialist for expert assistance. The User Support Portal can be accessed from every course or from the online course system (Maestro).
One commonality between online and classroom education is that parental involvement plays a big role in academic success. Encouragement, accountability, and support are necessary for student achievement at every school. In an online learning environment, parents have an even larger responsibility to provide structure and organization at home than students receiving an education within a school building.
Parenting and discipline
As a Christian parent, your role is to lovingly enforce rules and raise your child according to your family’s Christian principles. Ephesians 6:4 commands parents to “bring [your children] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” In other words, to discipline them, teach them, model to them, and love them in such a way that they learn to love God above all else, to trust Him, and obey Him.
With online education you get to make more choices and exercise greater control, but that also means a greater level of involvement than delegating education to instructors and staff at a traditional school. While we can provide curriculum, instructors, and structure, parents are still needed to help with homework, interact with instructors, and motivate their child to stay on pace to reach academic goals. We can’t do it without you, nor would we want to!
Instructor interaction and grading
If your school opts to use an online instructor provided by Sevenstar, our instructors will respond to questions within 24 hours and grade assignments within 48 hours after it is submitted (this does not include weekends). The student and instructor will communicate through graded assignments, regular email, and voice (phone or Skype) at least monthly.
As the student participates in coursework, a contracted instructor will interact with them in order to ensure a successful learning experience.
The contracted instructor is not the lecturer or tutor, but does answer questions the students will have. In addition, the facilitator grades assignments and gives constructive feedback to each student.
Students can also expect the contracted instructor to record grades to build their transcript. Here are the types of interaction you can expect from your instructor:
- Sends a welcome email
- Conducts a welcome call (scheduled by the student)
- Responds to emails within 24 hours (not counting weekends)
- Grades assignments within 48 hours (not counting weekends)
- Conducts up to two Phone/Skype Calls per month (scheduled by the student)
- Issues a final grade
Reports and secure exams
To maintain academic integrity, all semester exams are required to be proctored by an adult selected by the enrolling party (either family and/or school).
Prior to and/or during each exam, the proctor will:
- Review Sevenstar’s academic integrity policy and monitor student adherence to it.
- Provide a distraction free environment for student testing.
- Ensure instructions are followed and only approved materials are utilized.
- Verify the identity of the student taking the semester exam.
We often get asked the following question:
“What prevents students taking online classes in a remote location from cheating on their online exams?”
By reading the following explanation, you will discover why students find it so hard to cheat in our online exams and why they so often get caught if they try.
Online Exam Philosophy
Online examinations in Sevenstar courses are not simply “face-to-face” classroom tests transferred to the Internet. Exams are designed specifically for an online environment. This means that the medium and delivery has been considered and designed into the actual exam. Exams are not simply the regurgitation of facts, or rote memorization that can be manipulated by cutting and pasting. These exams are driven by the concepts of critical thinking.
Exams use question banks of many more questions than need to be delivered at one time. For example, an exam of 20 questions will be “fed” by a question bank of more than 100 questions. Students taking the same exam at the same time are rarely going to see the same questions, because the question bank is randomly generating questions for each student. This goes a long way to prevent cheating.
Perhaps the best and simplest way to combat academic dishonesty is to inform students from the beginning about the high level of reporting and oversight that online instructors have regarding their progress and movement within the course. A instructor can generate a report on what students are doing in the course. Instructors can identify when the student has logged in and review how long they spent reviewing content, completing assignments, and taking exams. The system detects when the student is no longer active to prevent students from visiting a page to act like they were working. This knowledge discourages students from attempting to be dishonest.
Conditional release of content
Instructors have the ability to create learning paths within their courses that will password protect, release and hide content in order to encourage academic integrity, honesty, and achievement. For example, instructors can hide all quizzes and tests until the students have completed the lessons leading to a module exam. Then, when the student is ready for the exam, only the exam itself will be visible within the course. The instructor could set the system so that the student cannot see the exam ahead of time and cannot see any of the lesson material once the exam has begun. Conditional release of content is taught to all instructors in our standard instructor orientation course.
Presenting a Christian worldview
At Sevenstar, we believe all truth is God’s truth1. Biblical integration, then, seeks to use that truth, in whatever discipline it is studied, to point to God’s works and ways2 and man’s responsibility to Him3 (Brummelen, 2002). We seek to reunite every student to the foundational truths supporting the often segmented lessons, units, and disciplines of a typical educational experience (Eckel, 2003). Our ultimate goal is to lead the student to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ4 over all wisdom and knowledge5 (Nickel, 2001). As students comprehend the biblical and eternal6 relevance of the content, they become equipped to master more rigorous concepts. Students will then be able to synthesize and apply those concepts to their lives and their world (Harris, 2004). Biblical integration empowers them to live in accordance with the mandates7 of Scripture (Brummelen, 2002) and bring glory to God8.
“[Biblical Christianity] is a change in thinking and acting in accordance with a biblically informed mind. It penetrates all of life and learning. It should lead to knowing the One whom we thank and it should last beyond one year or the number of years we may have the students.”
Sources influencing our philosophy and process
Brummelen, H. W. (2002). Stepping stones to curriculum: a biblical path (2nd ed.). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Purposeful Design Publications.
Eckel, M. (2003). The whole truth: classroom strategies for biblical integration. Chicago, Il.: Xulon Press. Harris, R. A. (2004). The integration of faith and learning: a worldview approach. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.
MacCullough, M. E. (2008). Developing a worldview approach to biblical integration. Langhorne, Pa.: Philadelphia Biblical University School of Education.
Nickel, J. (2001). Mathematics: is God silent? (Rev., 2nd ed.). Vallecito, Calif.: Ross House Books.
1 John 14:6
2 Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:20
3 Romans 1:20; John 6:45; 2 Timothy 2:15; Proverbs 1:5; Hebrews 4:12
4 1 Corinthians 3:11; Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 5:6
5 Colossians 2:3; James 1:5; Proverbs 1:7; 2 Corinthians 10:5
6 Psalm 90:2; Ecclesiastes 3:11; John 17:3
7 Genesis 1:28; Matthew 22:37-40; Matthew 28:16-20
8 1 Corinthians 10:31