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    Avatar of Donna We
    Donna We

    My definition of blended learning:
    When I look at the types of blended learning that we use in my school division, Aspen View Public Schools, it is apparent to me that blended learning can take on many forms.  Although blended learning can be simply explained as being an educational program where a student learns partly in a traditional face-to-face, brick-and-mortar environment and partly through online instruction, it can take on different forms.  In a search to help me identify what these different forms can take, I found a great site online at which summarizes very well these different forms, those being:

    a.  Face-to-face: teachers deliver the curriculum in a traditional manner supplemented by online learning within the same physical space, such as using a computer lab or using laptops within the physical classroom;
    b.  Rotation:  students rotate between self-paced online learning to traditional face-to-face learning on a fixed schedule;
    c.  Flex:  students learn most of the curriculum online.  Supports are provided face-to-face by a teacher when needed either through tutoring or in small groups;
    d.  Online Lab:  students take their online courses while in a traditional school setting, and usually take traditional courses, too;
    e.  Self-Blend:  students take online courses from remote locations to supplement their school’s traditional courses;
    f.  Online Driver:  students take all of their courses online with a teacher delivering the material; however, students are able to have face-to-face check-ins with their teacher.

    What I think some of the opportunities of a blended learning approach are:
    Students are able to have more flexibility in their schedules – in regards to both time and subjects studied, hence providing a more student centered learning experience.  In a well-designed blended learning environment, students should be able to find a higher level of engagement in their courses as theory can be learned online during their own time, allowing for students to dig deeper into the content by having greater conversation and discovery in the face-to-face classroom.

    As often seen in rural school divisions, my school division has found that there are many courses that students want to study which would not be available without the use of a blended program.  Many of our schools have low enrollment and do not have the luxury to be able to hire teachers to teacher the courses that are students want to enroll in.  By running a Virtual School in our division, we are able to provide much more option for our students,  This is an opportunity that can be realized by all school divisions.
    One of the greatest opportunities is for students to be able to learn at any time, any place, any pace.  We are finding at Aspen View Public Schools that some of our students spend time not only at school working during their Virtual School scheduled time, but they are also working on their online courses in the evening allowing them to “experiment” with their learning.

    What I believe are some of the challenges with a blended learning environment:
    One of the challenges I see is that teachers and students do not have the skills necessary to teach and learn in an online environment.  I see teachers who are amazing traditional teachers finding it difficult to connect with their students online—pedagogy has to change and not all teachers have had the proper training on how to best teach in the online environment, but because of their teaching assignments, they must.  Some teachers who are placed in the situation where they need to run a blended program find the task too complex and feel a  lot of pressure to create content without understanding how to use the multitudes of mediums that are available for them to use.  I see students who do well in a traditional environment struggling in a blended environment.  The bottom line is, that in order for blended learning to be successful, time and instruction must be given for teachers and students to learn how to adjust to the blended format.

    How I apply a blended approach in my school division:
    I am currently applying an example of a rotational blended approach in my school division.  In Aspen View Public School division, we are working at providing a greater selection of quality CTS courses.  In doing so, we are also providing amazing Dual Credit options to our students.

    We have hired a journeyman hairstylist (who has bridged to get her education degree) to run Cosmetology courses across the division.  Because she is a journeyman, she is able to teach the 3400 level Cosmetology CTS courses, which means students who successfully complete her courses have the opportunity to challenge the Apprenticeship test.  This teacher has been given an assignment which has her working in six high schools in the division.

    This dynamic teacher is scheduled to be at each school teaching face-to-face, and providing practical opportunities once a week.  To support her program, she has created online Moodle modules.  The first term of this year was spent working out the logistics of how to provide technology supports for this teacher and then having her create the online courses, determining how to approach the face-to-face components of the course and figuring out how to have a staff member in each of the schools available to support students working on the Moodle courses throughout the week on the days when then teacher was not in their schools.  We also had challenges in determining how the scheduling was going to work across the division, and having community meetings to answer parental questions about how blended learning can benefit their children.

    We are currently one week into the term…I will keep you updated with our “blended evolution” as I am sure that there are a lot of lessons that will be learned and changes made as the term progresses.