As in life, education always allows for second chances. So if your young learner wasn’t pleased with their grade the first time around, or didn’t feel they grasped the material as fully as they would have liked, they can take what’s called an “upgrade course.”
What’s an Upgrade Course, Exactly?
Upgrade courses are meant for students who have successfully completed a course but wish to improve their marks. They contain content similar to the previously completed course, albeit with a condensed assessment workload (with fewer or shorter assessments). Students typically work through their upgrade courses at a quicker pace. Your teen can take an upgrade course as part of their online summer school, or at any point throughout the year.
Once a student finishes their upgrade course, they will earn the same credit they initially achieved. The higher of the two grades will show up on their transcripts with an ‘R’ next to it.
Eligibility for an upgrade course is straightforward: The student must have completed the course in the last 12 months, earning a 50% grade or higher. To register for an upgrade course, simply send proof of the original course completion to OES (we’ll take a final report card, transcript or credit counselling summary sheet) and start your journey toward academic improvement.
Sit down with your young learner and discuss the merits of retrying. To help direct the conversation, you can refer to this post. Here, we’ll be exploring the benefits of upgrading your high school courses. We’ll start by cycling through the general benefits of upgrading, followed by a specific look at the advantages of online learning as you upgrade. Finally, to help your learner maximize their chances of second-study success, we’ll offer a method for defining academic goals.
The Benefits of Upgrading Courses
In this section, we’ll explore the general benefits of upgrading courses. Upgrade courses aren’t a new concept in Ontario high schools – they have existed for some time. Essentially, they’re the education system’s way of allowing students multiple opportunities for success.
A single shot at a course doesn’t – and shouldn’t – cement or define a student’s abilities. The end goal in education is always to ensure that students learn the material to the best of their abilities, and if that takes a couple of tries, that’s completely fine.
If your teen is unsure whether it’s “worth it” to re-take a course, consider the points below.
Get an Edge in Post-Secondary Admissions
Perhaps the most commonly cited reason for re-taking a course is to improve marks for a college or university application. Grades 11 and 12 are critical years for students whose long-term hopes hinge on post-secondary acceptance. They may have a particular institution or program that they just have to get into. A less-than-stellar grade can therefore be a shock to the system – a temporary threat to their post-secondary dreams.
Many college and university programs require minimum entering grades. These minimum grades vary from institution to institution, program to program. Some university programs demand marks north of 95%, while others sit somewhere in the mid-60% range. Successfully improving marks in an upgrade class gives your teen more choices come application time.
A Common Scenario:
Your teen has their heart set on the big city of Toronto. Specifically, they want to study science at U of T. According to the 2018 MacLean’s figures (provided by U of T), the minimum entering grade required is 75-91%.
Your kid would meet the requirements were it not for a slightly low mark in Grade 12 Chemistry. No problem. You can easily register them for the upgrade SCH4U course, where they can retry for a higher mark in advance of their university application due date.
Upgrading Can Help Post-Secondary Attendance
Upgrade courses don’t just aid in the admissions process; they can also help your teen when it comes time to take those challenging post-secondary courses.
In taking a high school upgrade course, students strengthen their knowledge of the course materials. They build confidence in the subject and often retain the materials better. So, when it comes time to make the scary transition to college or university, your teen will do so with a more solid foundation.
A Common Scenario:
Your young learner had some trouble with grade 12 Advanced Functions. For the most part, they understood the materials, but their confidence in some core functions was a tad shaky.
Here’s the problem: The university program they chose is one of the many that require a foundation in the subject. To help ease their transition and set themselves up for success, they may consider taking upgrade Grade 12 Advanced Functions.
Access More Scholarships, Grants and Bursaries
Some (though not all) scholarships, grants and bursaries are awarded based on high school average grades. Therefore, while high grades aren’t a necessary condition for financial aid, they allow your teen to access more options. As a math instructor might tell you in their lesson on probability, greater options mean a higher likelihood of succeeding.
A Common Scenario:
One of the currently featured scholarships at Scholarships Canada is from King’s University College in London, Ontario. Per the scholarship description, applicants to this scholarship with a final high school average of 82-84.9% will be awarded $2,500. However, the scholarship amount increases with higher averages. “Students who achieve a final high school average of 95.0% or above will receive a scholarship of $5,000.00.”
Your teen wants to maximize their chances of getting the most financial aid possible. To do so, they may consider taking upgrade courses to improve their overall average.
It May Help with Employment – Even in a Roundabout Way
In the past, a head hunter for the local law firm might walk into a nearby school, ask for the students with the highest averages, and dole out internships accordingly. That’s no longer the case. Some employers still put stock in grade averages, but it is becoming increasingly rare.
That doesn’t mean taking upgrade courses doesn’t help at all with employment. The skills a student strengthens in their upgrade courses can help set them up for career success. More than that, the tenacity and willingness to self-improve that a student demonstrates when they register for an upgrade course are precisely the characteristics an employer looks for.
Why Upgrade Courses Online?
Those are the basic advantages of upgrading, but what benefits can your teen look forward to when they upgrade high school courses online? In this section, we get a little more granular – examining how the online learning model lends itself perfectly to upgrade learning.
Learn at Your Own Pace
Ask a teen why they didn’t achieve their ideal mark the first time around, and they may tell you: “I just fell behind a bit,” or “I struggled with a couple of sections.” At traditional brick-and-mortar schools, all students in a classroom must follow the pace set by the teacher. This one-pace-fits-all approach doesn’t work for every learner, however.
Online upgrade courses are self-paced, meaning your teen can proceed from one topic or section at their own speed. For instance, if exponential functions proved challenging the first time they took grade 11 functions, they can spend more time on it during their upgrade MCR3U course. Likewise, If they’re confident in inverse functions, they may choose to move relatively rapidly through that section.
If you believe the stringent pace of a traditional classroom held your young learner back from achieving their best possible mark, consider online learning.
Upgrade the Flexible Way
Commonly, a student takes an upgrade course either during the summer, or in addition to their regular course load during the school year. In the summer, a student’s focus may be pulled in a thousand different directions – hanging out with friends, jetting off on family vacations, etc. During the school year, their regular courses command a sizeable chunk of their attention.
Thankfully, online upgrade courses are flexible. Your teen can start their repeat course when it’s convenient; work through the material and assessments according to a timeline that accommodates their other important activities/obligations; and complete the upgrade course in as much or little time as they need (within a twelve-month timeframe).
Hone Vital Soft Skills
You might have encountered the term “soft skills” in recent years. It’s a buzzy concept used by employers, hiring managers, post-secondary admissions counsellors, etc. Soft skills refer to interpersonal attributes that allow you to succeed in an organizational setting. They may include effective online communication skills, time management, flexibility and work ethic.
Online learning certainly hones a student’s soft skills. Because courses are self-paced, students learn valuable time management skills. The nature of online learning forces them to strengthen their online communication skills. And, as mentioned above, upgrading a course online demonstrates a tenacious work ethic.
You May Enjoy Better Retention
In our previous post, Advantages Of Taking A High School Course Online, we note the following stat from the Research Institute of America:
“Some research shows that on average, students retain 25-60% more material when learning online compared to only 8-10% in a classroom… because students can learn at their own pace, going back and re-reading, skipping, or accelerating through concepts as they choose.”
Additionally, repetition has been shown to have a positive effect on retention. Consider this peer-reviewed study from the Economics of Education Review, entitled “Doing it twice, getting it right? The effects of grade retention and course repetition in higher education.” Its purview is college-level curriculum, but its main finding – that repetition significantly boosts retention – bodes well for high school students taking upgrade courses.
Improve Your Marks from the Comfort of Your Home Computer
Finally, an indisputable benefit of online high school courses – whether regular or upgrade – is convenience.
Your teen can improve their marks from the comfort of their home computer. If you plan on taking a family vacation this summer, you can pack the laptop and learn on the road. And if your young learner wants to go stay with the grandparents for a couple of weeks, they can take their course work there as well.
Set S.M.A.R.T Goals to Improve Your Chances of Upgrade Success
Students receive a lot of support at Ontario eSecondary School. In addition to support from our fantastic team of passionate instructors, your teen can access 24/7 tutoring.
Still, it is the student’s responsibility to take charge of their upgrade course work. To help improve your learner’s chance of upgrade course success, encourage them to set academic goals.
When we talk about academic goals, one of the go-to metaphors we use is a “road map.” Although a little clichéd, it’s an apt analogy. Imagine that Google Maps, rather than offering detailed road directions, vaguely gestured in the direction of your destination and said, “you figure out the details.” Not very helpful, right?
If you have a destination in mind, you want crystal clear directions. S.M.A.R.T Goals allow you to define the parameters of your academic goals in transparent, followable terms. Here’s what it stands for:
- Specific: Define exactly what your goals are and what you want from them. For an upgrade course, you might have a particular mark in mind, or you may simply want to improve upon your previous mark.
- Measurable: How will you measure your progress toward the goal? Figure out a way to measure whether you are on track (like keeping track of assessment grades, or ticking off chapters you have studied).
- Achievable: Be realistic with your goals. “Shooting for the stars” is amiable, but unattainable goals can result in undue stress and, occasionally, feelings of avoidance.
- Results-Oriented: Focus on measurable outcomes. For example, instead of saying, “I want to be a master of math!” say, “I want to complete Grade 12 Math for College Tech.”
- Timely: Plot a timeline for achieving your goal. At OES, you can take between four weeks and 12 months to complete a course. Find a timeline that works for you.
With your registration completed, your upgrade course chosen, and academic goals set, you are ready to dive into your educational self-improvement. Hopefully, this article has shed some valuable light on the merits of repeating courses and the advantages of upgrading online. For more information, visit our website or contact us today!
Title Tag: It’s Not Too Late to Improve Your High School Marks
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