As technology continues to permeate traditional classroom environments, more than 25 U.S. Jewish day schools are taking part in a new era of learning, fostered by an Israel-based online learning initiative founded three years ago.
Bonim B’Yachad offers Jewish schools an à la carte menu of academic courses that enable them to fill the specific needs of their students.
“Every student has a different way of learning, every school has a different grading system, protocols,” said CEO Aryeh Eisenberg. “We create courses in all academic subjects a Jewish day school could need — Judaic, secular, foreign languages, advanced placement — and then we fit into the existing program or culture of the school.”
Students take the online courses with real teachers in real time, often in the same format in which they would have taken a class in their actual brick-and-mortar school. The teachers, though situated in Israel, can take part in back-to-school nights and are available to meet with the schools’ teachers and parents.
Ofra Hiltzik, upper school principal of the Schechter School of Long Island in Williston Park, New York, said she believes online or blended learning is the future for small Jewish day schools like hers. With a high school of approximately 130 students, Hiltzik used Bonim B’Yachad to offer a much-coveted computer science course for which she had previously failed to find a teacher due to tight budgeting and difficult scheduling.
Now, Hiltzik feels strongly that all students should take at least one online course before they finish high school. “We think it will help in college,” she said.
Eisenberg said most schools use Bonim B’Yachad either for creating additional sections of existing classes, increasing their academic offerings, or addressing scheduling challenges.
Leslie Smith-Rosen, upper school principal of the Adelson School in Las Vegas, Nevada, used Bonim B’Yachad to offer an accelerated calculus course to a student who was outpacing the rest of the class. “It went really, really well. … An actual teacher in a classroom cannot be replaced, but sometimes we cannot do that, so this is a good alternative.”