Why K-12 School Districts Should Be Using Blended Learning?

A decade ago, who would have thought that online learning would capture the education domain in such a big way? According to the Babson Survey Research Group’s ninth annual survey, over 6.1 million students have taken at least one online course in the 2010 fall term, an increase of 560,000 students over the number reported the previous year.

Image credits: tgbarrett’s photostream, available under a Creative Commons Attribution license

In the book Disrupting Class, the authors state that by 2019, 50 percent of all high school courses will go online. Now these are huge projections, warranting a look at just how K-12 schools expect to implement virtual learning. Some examples include:

  1. Teaching through traditional classrooms while using online learning for supplementary material or homework, mainly through e-mail.
  2. Splitting class activities into traditional and online formats by deploying learning management systems (LMSs).
  3. Delivering most curricula online through LMSs and virtual classrooms, with some face-to-face sessions held from time to time.
  4. Providing online labs via the use of virtual classrooms, due to shortage of teachers.
  5. Self-blending in which, students take up online or distance learning courses along with their traditional, face-to-face curriculum.

Benefits of using e-learning in K-12 districts are continuously studied today. Here are a few use cases as cited in Innosight 2011 report, The Rise of K–12 Blended Learning, Profiles of emerging models:

Name of the institution/district program Grades and subjects taught in blended form Notable Results Program
1. Alabama State Department of Education Grades 8–12; Comprehensive blended subjects Between 2002 and 2008, Alabama’s high school graduation rate climbed from 62.1 to 69.0%, a gain that was 4.3 percentage points above the national average for that time period. Students supplement
their traditional school’s
course offerings by taking
one or more courses online.
2. Riverside Unified
School District
Grades 6-12;
Comprehensive subjects
88.2% of all full-time RUS
students passed the English/language arts California High
School Exit Exam in the 10th grade, and 82.4% of all students passed the Math section.
Students can work remotely
from the “Education
Options Center,” but
are required to connect
with teachers throughout
the week through email,
videoconferencing, or faceto-
face office hours.
3. Carpe Diem Collegiate High School and Middle
School (CDCHS), Arizona
Grades 6–12; Comprehensive subjects In 2010, CDCHS ranked first in its county in student performance in math and reading, and
ranked among the top 10% of Arizona charter schools. Savings on labor costs were also substantial.
55-minute periods,
rotating from online for
concept introduction and
instruction to face-to-face
for reinforcement and
application. 2 to 3 such rotations
per day.
4. eCademy, Albuquerque Public Schools Grades 8–12; Comprehensive, except some electives The least expensive high school the district has ever built due to savings in paper, books, storage and longer working hours in a 25% lesser area than average aschools. 20% improvement in
retention. 35% increase in teacher-parent contacts.
First course meeting is face-to-
face. Students complete
the remainder of coursework
online as long as they
maintain at least a “C” grade.
6. EPGY Online High School, Stanford University, California Grades 7–12; Comprehensive subjects Online Enrollment has grown from 30 to 289 in 5 years. Many participants accepted to
top universities.
An online platform delivers
all content remotely, but
students have the option to
attend a residential summer
program at Stanford.
8. School of One, New York City Department of Education Grades 6-8; Mathematics Students opting for blended learning in summer 2009 acquired new math skills at a rate estimated at
seven times faster than peers who were not taking online classes.
Students in
spring 2010 showed significant gains across all academic quartiles.
The program projects daily
station assignments onto the
wall for each student, and
students rotate among various
learning modalities, including
a traditional classroom
format, virtual tutoring,
small-group discussion, and
software, depending on what
works best for each student.
9. Wichita Public Schools, Kansas Grades 10–12; Core Subjects District’s graduation rate rose by more than 8% between 1996 and 2006. Its cost per dropout-recovery student was roughly $7,721 less than the district’s per-pupil expenditure for the 2008–09 school year. Students attend a learning
center in a storefront or
office space where they
learn online, with face-to face
teacher support.
10. Quest to learn, New York City Department of Education Grades 6–12; Comprehensive subjects Overall academic results in first year of online program adoption were on par with district averages, although
students showed gains in systems thinking, teamwork, and time management.
assign online materials to
model, or
provide supplemental self-paced
study around foreign
languages or math.

The above results are promising. They show how e-learning can benefit K-12 districts when implemented well, and with full faculty acceptance.

Studying successful implementations is key. It’s also the easy part of the equation. The Babson Survey Research Group states that, “Less than one-third of chief academic officers believe that their faculty accept the value and legitimacy of online education. This percent has changed little over the last eight years.”

Even when faculty buy-in rises, teachers also face the added challenge of keeping up-to-date and tech savvy. In order to realize increased virtual learning adoption in K-12 districts, it’s important to choose comprehensive virtual classroom tools that don’t put a heavy training burden on the faculty.

There are many easy-to-use options, such as Adobe Connect, Elluminate, and WizIQ. Furthermore, integrating the CMS and virtual classroom tools such as offering the WizIQ Virtual Classroom inside Moodle has further opened the scope of e-learning in K-12 school districts. In this way, teachers familiar with Moodle don’t have to learn a whole new toolset.

Online learning has the potential to transform traditional brick and mortar learning a more student-centric, personalized, and productive experience. Large changes are rightly scrutinized when they appear, but e-learning keeps proving its worth.

Ready for a session? What do you think?


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