Blended Learning

Blended Learning Provides Pathway to Success for High School Students

Joseph Rapposelli, administrator of the Red Clay Consolidated School District's blended learning program, explains how his dristrict helped expand course options and prepare students for college with one of Delaware's first blended learning initiatives.

Blended and Distance Learning programs have long been associated with institutions of higher learning. The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) estimated there was a total of 12.2 million enrollments in college-level credit-granting distance education courses in 2006–07. A study by the Department of Education (2011) found that from 2000 to 2008, the percentage of undergraduates enrolled in at least one distance education class expanded from 8 percent to 20 percent. A Survey of Online Learning by the Babson Survey Research Group (2011) revealed that the number of students taking at least one online course has now surpassed 6 million.

However, blended learning is not only being used by colleges and universities. Many secondary schools are beginning to embrace the idea of distance learning possibilities for their students. Over the past few years, school districts around the country have implemented some type of blended learning into their curriculum. It is clear that an increasing number of school districts are making online and blended learning options available to their students.  A 2013 report, "Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning," commissioned by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) found that in 2013-14, more than 75 percent of school districts have some online or blended options.

With this dramatic increase in online learning programs, school administrators struggle to determine if online learning is as productive as traditional face-to-face formatted classes. Research (Heterick and Twigg, 2003) suggests there is evidence that blended learning has the potential to be more effective and efficient when compared to a traditional classroom model.

Background
The Red Clay Consolidated School District (RCCSD) was one of the first school districts in Delaware to offer blended learning opportunities to high school students. Beginning in 2011-2012, the RCCSD selected two in-district schools that would offer classes to students from the other school via live video broadcast. Three-tiered student seating computer labs were established at both sites that included many state-of-the-art technologies such as; 72-inch video screens, high definition video cameras, smart board technologies, document scanners and student laptops and microphones. Students at one school would receive the live broadcast from the teacher and students at the other school.

Participating students benefit from this program on several levels. Primarily, this program allows students the opportunity to enroll and complete courses that were not previously available to them. Many of the distance learning courses in this program are Advanced Placement (AP) classes that grant students college credit upon successful completion of an examination. By taking advantage of these opportunities, students can get a head-start on their college requirements which have potential for financial savings to college-bound seniors. Another benefit to students is the exposure to collaboration tools and this type of learning environment better prepares students for their next level of learning in higher education.

Another benefit this program offers students is the opportunity to receive college credit for the successful completion of duel-enrollment courses through an agreement with Delaware Technical and Community College. Courses offered through this agreement include sociology and criminology. Approximately 91 percent of all students who enrolled in the sociology dual-enrollment course received college credit. Furthermore, the format of these classes prepares students for the learning communities they will experience in a higher education environment. The collaboration tools used in this program to enhance student engagement are the same tools used by many colleges and universities, such as a learning management system (LMS), which has become a staple in the curricula and learning methods in higher education.

Barbara Prillaman has taught the sociology course in this distance learning format since the start of the program and has been instrumental in its implementation. "Distance learning is extremely beneficial for our high school students. It provides them with multiple opportunities to have a 'college' experience while still in a high school setting.  Students practice with, use and perfect the exact tools now that they will need later on a college campus," said Prillaman.

Tami Soltow teaches the legal process and criminology courses of the program. She has incorporated many of the available technology tools and features into the learning strategies of her classes. "Students truly get a realistic approach into the communication and collaboration tools currently being used in the business community. In our classes, we have conducted mock trials using video conferencing and utilized the technology to conduct legal research projects," said Soltow.  

Case Study
Course selection and offerings for this program were based on the lack of availability at the partnering school. For example, teachers at the Conrad School of Science and Technology broadcasted courses to students located at Alexis I. du Pont High School (AIHS), which included World History AP, sociology and Comparative Government AP. AIHS teachers offered classes to Conrad students that included Statistics AP, legal process, military history and accounting. McKean High School offered Introduction to Italian Language. Through the use of Blackboard's Engage LMS, teachers were easily able to collaborate with all students and provide students with 24/7 access to all course materials.

Listed below are the first three years of student achievement (through final grades and AP test scores) of students who have participated in the RCCSD blended learning program. This three-year case study indicates that the District's program has established a pathway to success for many students in academic achievement and college preparedness. Approximately 500 students from three schools have completed the program.

Results
Key results of the program include:
  • Approximately 94 percent of all participating students successfully completed their course;
  • 74 out of 119 students, 62 percent, achieved a '3' or greater on their AP test scores;
  • Approximately 91 percent of students received college credit through the DTCC sociology dual enrollment program; and
  • Program AP test scores exceeded the state's average for the past three years.

Grade Distribution Distance Learning Program 2011-2014

 

A

B

C

D

F

Total

2011-2012

31

27

46

24

11

139

2012-2013

46

40

33

20

11

150

2013-2014

67

73

36

22

7

205

Total

144

140

115

66

29

494

Percent

29.1%

28.3%

23.3%

13.4%

5.9%

100.0%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dual Enrollment (Sociology) Grade Distribution

Academic Year

A

B

C

D

F

Total

2011-2012

0

4

7

2

1

14

2012-2013

1

4

5

1

1

12

2013-2014

2

13

7

0

3

25

Total

3

21

19

3

5

51

Percent

5.9%

41.2%

37.3%

5.9%

9.8%

100.0%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AP Test Scores 2011-2014

 

Five

Four

Three

Two

One

TOTAL

2011-2012

1

7

19

8

11

46

2012-2013

7

8

8

3

6

32

2013-2014

2

12

10

11

6

41

Total

10

27

37

22

23

119

Percent

8.4%

22.7%

31.1%

18.5%

19.3%

100.0%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AP Test Scores (3 or greater)

 

 

 

School Year

2011-2012

2012-2013

2013-2014

 

 

 

Program

59%

72%

59%

 

 

 

State

51%

48%

50%

 

 

 

Future for RCCSD
The future looks bright for the distance learning program in the Red Clay Consolidated School District in Wilmington, DE. RCCSD's blended learning program recently received the 2014 Superstar in Education Award by the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. The program has also been recognized by the University of Delaware's Vision 2015 Conference in Education.  Originally, the program began with two district high schools but was expanded to include a third area high school beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. As enrollment continues to increase, the district plans to include an additional area high school for 2015-2016.

References
Garrison. R, & Kanuka. H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education. Volume 7, Issue 2, 2nd Quarter 2004, Pages 95–105
Heterick, B., & Twigg, C. (2003, February). The Learning MarketSpace.
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2011). Digest of Education Statistics, 2010 (NCES 2011-015), (NCES 2011-033)

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