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eSN Special Report: Blended learning on the rise | Featured Special Reports | eSchoolNews.com

November 29, 2010

eSN Special Report: Blended learning on the rise | Featured Special Reports | eSchoolNews.com.

It is well known that as students we don’t all learn the same, this poses to be great challenge for both the teachers and students. So the question is how can we provide the best support to our teachers in providing the right methods and students to raise the level of their participation, accountability and ultimately their grades? Read below and see how Chicago’s virtual charter schools is accomplishing this.


It’s a typical weekday, and Leah Rogers is greeting students as they arrive at school. She hasn’t seen any of these kids in a while, because they haven’t set foot in the building for a week … but that’s by design.

Rogers is acting head of the Chicago Virtual Charter School (CVCS), an innovative school that is a cross between a traditional school and a virtual one: Students work online from home four days a week and come to school for the fifth.

In a typical school environment, all students in a classroom have to learn the same thing at same time. But at CVCS, students can work on material at their own pace, and educators can tailor their instruction to each student individually to fill the gaps in that child’s knowledge.

“In a traditional setting, students are at the mercy of the teacher, who decides how fast they’re learning [and] how much time they have to spend on the subject,” Rogers said. “We give those who ‘get it’ faster the ability to move on.”

Although students are working from home most of the time, they appreciate the chance to come to school one day a week to see classmates and their teachers face to face. The occasional face time is like an anchor that keeps them from drifting too far off their course of studies, supporters say.

CVCS is one of a growing number of schools that have adopted a blend of face-to-face and online instruction, an approach that appears to be paying off: Despite serving many poor and minority students, the school made Adequate Yearly Progress in 2008 and 2009 and has posted considerable gains in both reading and math, becoming one of 147 public schools in Illinois to win an Academic Improvement Award.

Best of both worlds

For many school reformers, blended learning is an exciting instructional model because it combines the best elements of both face-to-face and online instruction.

As technology advances and new digital tools become available to educators and students, a steady migration toward online learning has begun to take place. Many students who struggle in a traditional learning environment now have the opportunity to attend a “virtual” school, where they can learn at their own pace: Advanced students are not held back by the slower pace of their peers, while students with disabilities have more time to understand the material before moving on. Parents in rural communities who home-school their children because of the time and distance it takes to travel to the nearest brick-and-mortar school can have the support of a strong online curriculum. And students who have dropped out of school have the chance to resume their education, finish high school, and get a diploma via distance learning. Meanwhile, multimedia options give online learning an edge often not found in traditional learning environments.

But despite the potential benefits that virtual learning offers, traditional, face-to-face learning has significant strengths of its own. Students can interact in person with a teacher who can answer questions and help motivate them. Teachers can evaluate students more individually, taking into account personal elements in a way that even the best computer program cannot replicate. (They can more easily tell if a student is moody, or anxious, or depressed, for instance—and they can intervene as appropriate.) Traditional schools offer more opportunities for peer interaction and the chance to develop deeper personal relationships. Brick-and-mortar schools also offer a physical place where students can learn, which gives working parents the ability to leave the house for their jobs and know that their children are in a safe environment.

Because both the traditional and online models have their own unique benefits, a number of schools have found that a blended, or hybrid, approach works well.

“I believe the blended model is the future of education,” says Darren Reed, vice president of hybrid schools and programs for the online-education company K12Inc. “With a traditional school, you label kids with the terms ‘above grade level,’ ‘on grade level,’ and ‘below grade level.’ But that can be misleading. A kid can know a certain skill within a subject really well, and not know another skill within that same subject at all. With a hybrid model, we can tailor their learning, using technology and face-to-face learning, in a way that we might not be able to in a pure traditional model.”

That’s not to say that traditional brick-and-mortar schools and online-only schools cannot be successful, Reed adds—but “hybrid models capture the best of both worlds.”

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From → E-Learning, Education

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