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The Friday Institute Launches First-Of-Its-Kind Online Course for Students

Raleigh, NC – Today, The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation in the College of Education at NC State University launched a free, online experience specifically for students called Students LEAD (Learn, Explore, & Advocate Differently), in partnership with the Oak Foundation. This first-of-its-kind course helps students understand their own learning. Upon completion of the course, students receive an “Advocacy Plan,” which outlines their strengths and challenges and makes recommendations to consider and is shared with their educators.

Students LEAD was created because all students learn differently. The course was developed to help students, especially those who may struggle with attention, time management, memory, or expressing ideas, understand that they are not alone and that specific strategies can support their learning. Additionally, learners who understand and reflect upon their own learning — using metacognitive strategies — are more likely to succeed, according to research. “The encouraging conclusion is that the gap between high achievers and struggling students can be closed by guiding the latter to develop a metacognitive approach to learning” (Wilson & Conyers, 2016).

The goals of Students LEAD are to have students engage in an interactive, online learning opportunity that supports their ability to:

    • understand their own learning and learning differences;
    • develop and apply strategies and learn about specific tools to strengthen their own learning and learning differences;
    • gain strategies for partnering with educators and parents on ensuring they are receiving the support they need; and
  • engage in discussions with other students about learning differences.

The course guides students to explore key areas such as attention, memory, idea expression and time management, and they develop a meaningful understanding of themselves as learners. After this exploration, students are taught to use these insights in order to advocate for their own learning needs with educators and others. Throughout the course, students work on their Advocacy Plan, which serves as a tangible takeaway and reference from the learning experience that is then used to implement their personalized strategies and insights. The course takes students no more than four hours and can be completed over several weeks.

Students LEAD was developed in coordination with middle and high school students from across the country, as well as like-minded organizations, including Eye to Eye, AVID, East Wake Academy (NC), Project Tomorrow and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (NC). The students were instrumental in sharing ideas about the value and impact of videos, particularly the real-life stories of four different Eye to Eye students’ experiences with learning differences and leveraging their strengths in and outside of school.

“Through this course I learned strategies to help me stay focused in school. I learned about a lot of tools I can use to be successful,” said Hailey, a high school senior who took the course.

Andrew, a junior, added that “learning strategies to use my strengths to help me be successful in school was really helpful. I have also used these tools outside of school to help me with my job. I learned that I am happiest and most successful doing hands-on activities, and I now know how to make learning more hands on for myself. Students LEAD was really easy to use, and I really liked being able to connect with other students during the course.”

“We know that all students learn differently, but what we at The Friday Institute were struggling with was how can we help students understand, embrace and redirect their own work habits and approaches,” said Dr. Mary Ann Wolf, director of digital learning programs at The Friday Institute. “The Students LEAD course takes a unique, research-based approach to empower students to lead their own learning. The course supports students as they begin to understand their own learning and empowers them to partner with teachers and other allies to leverage their strengths and address their own needs.”

The Friday Institute, in the College of Education at NC State University, is well known for its professional learning for district and school leaders, coaches and educators and its MOOC-Eds. Other courses include coaching, teaching mathematics and technology, and computational thinking, among others. In 2017, The Friday Institute saw record growth of more than 60 percent, and participants reported satisfaction with the courses they took (>90 percent).

To learn more about Students LEAD, visit

Since 2007, the Professional Learning and Leading Collaborative (PLLC) at The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation has emphasized leadership in and promoted pedagogical shifts to personalized and digital learning in order to inspire, innovate and coach. We engage educators at all levels to provide research based, job-embedded models and approaches for strategic planning and professional development with the belief that all students deserve access to equitable, personalized learning experiences. For more information visit

The Friday Institute advances K-12 education through innovation in teaching, learning and leadership. Bringing together educational professionals, researchers, policy-makers, and other community members, The Friday Institute is a center for fostering collaborations to improve education. They conduct research, develop educational resources, provide professional development programs for educators, advocate to improve teaching and learning, and help inform policy-making. Visit to learn more.