Create New Opportunities for Students by Building Teachers’ Capacity for Blended Learning

"Blended learning combines the best of traditional instruction with online and digital media to increase student engagement, maximize teachers’ time with students, and deliver personalized learning.  Blended learning empowers students to take ownership of their education by providing some control over time, place, path, or pace while affording our teachers more opportunities to meet with students for more individualized instruction." - Definition created by the Garnet Valley Blended Learning Committee 2017

Online and blended learning is growing at a rapid pace and holds great promise as an instructional strategy to expand and customize learning opportunities for students. Some national experts predict that 50 percent of all high school classes in the U.S. will be taught either online or in a blended format over the next 5 years. Most states now require students to take at least one online or blended course as part of their graduation requirement.

When implemented well, online and blended learning options give teachers an opportunity to transform the educational experience — to meet the needs of a broader group of learners, individualize instruction, and transform education for everyone — it should not be seen as a replacement for either the traditional high school experience nor for individual teachers.

The need for change has become more pronounced over the last decade as technology has become ubiquitous and new constraints have been placed on school budgets. School districts that are not prepared to offer online and blended learning options for students experience increased competition for enrollments from a variety of public and private online providers, including charter and cyber charter schools.

 The Garnet Valley School District understands that families in today's complex society need flexibility and options to meet their child's individual educational needs. The district is constantly developing and improving our systems and structures for all students with the renewed focus on personalized learning for all students.

Feedback and survey results from eSchool@GarnetValley teachers, parents, and students included the need for students to meet more often with their classroom teacher, the need to interact more with other Garnet Valley students, and the need for a more personalized curriculum. The result was the creation of a Blended Learning Committee which included all district stakeholders including district and building administration, teachers, parents, and students. The goals of the Blended Learning Committee were to create a shared definition and to also help decide certain criteria for a course to be piloted using a blended format. From the work of the committee, the district was able to pilot one course (US History 11) at Garnet Valley High School in the 2017-2018 school year with an expectation to expand the format to other courses and content areas in the years to come. Survey results from the teacher and students who participated in the blended course pilot were astounding. While the pilot only offered a small sample size, we are confident that with the expertise of our faculty and support from our administration, all students can be successful when given options and flexibility in their learning.

While Garnet Valley is home to one of the most robust, individualized professional learning programs around, we understood that having little experience with online learning environments required us to look outside our district for the expertise needed to fully train our teachers. After months of research and visits to neighboring school districts and universities, Garnet Valley selected Global Online Academy as our partner to help us reimagine what a classroom for the future and learning should look like in our school district.

At the same time, the synergy between our Curriculum and Technology Offices set to reimagine how our course design, curriculum cycle, and professional learning opportunities could be changed to meet the needs of our students and teachers as we moved towards offering more blended learning opportunities in our district. Working with Anthony Gabriele (@mrgabriele) and Pat Dunn (@plwdunn) we were able to synthesize our Ongoing Evaluation and Revision process into these six steps:

  1. Student-Centered Lesson Design
    Professional learning connected to University of Pennsylvania focused on the Before, During, and After lesson design structure and the Model of Engagement (©PLN)

  2. Student-Centered Curriculum Design
    Professional learning on and development of a current, researched-based, backwards design model. As part of our 5-year curriculum cycle, the Understanding by Design 2.0 (UbD 2.0) Curriculum Template, housed in our Content Management System (G Suite), guides our ongoing curriculum work.

  3. Open Education Resource (OER) Professional Learning
    Professional learning with our partners @spiderlearning focused on student-centered resource design that is connected directly to our UbD 2.0 curriculum templates. Topics include defining OER, copyright and fair use, attributions, Creative Commons and licensing, collecting, curating and creating high-level OER.

  4. Student-Centered Resource Design
    Collection, Curation, and Creation of OER-based curriculum resource modules specifically aligned to Garnet Valley student learning outcomes. All modules housed in our Content Management System (G Suite).

  5. Student-Centered Course Design Professional Learning
    Professional Learning centered around instructional design for traditional, blended, and online/virtual learning environments. The professional learning will focus on designing learning experiences, building interactions, and building content - all facilitated with our partnership with Global Online Academy.

  6. Course Digitization in Schoology
    Digitization from our Content Management System (G Suite) into our Learning Management System (Schoology) for traditional, blended, and online/virtual courses.

Amazing work by a lot of great people, but there is always more to do…