Blended Learning

Ohio Schools Go Big with Blended Learning

A majority of schools in Ohio are using some form of blended learning, primarily in high schools or schools that house grades K-12. The big motivators are facilitating personalized learning for students, providing more course choice and improving academic outcomes. Of those that aren't blending, nearly a third expect to do so.

Those results surfaced in a survey among all of the schools in Ohio conducted earlier this year by the Ohio Blended Learning Network, the Learning Accelerator and the Clayton Christensen Institute. All 994 district and charter schools in the state were invited to participate; 211 schools responded.

As the survey found, 58 percent of schools have some type of blended learning going on — most of those in and around three large cities, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus. The proportion was 71 percent for high schools. Only one in 10 elementary and middle schools are blending. While two-thirds (66 percent) of school districts are blending, less than half (42 percent) of charter schools are using blended learning. Almost three in 10 schools not currently blending expect to do so in the future.

According to "State of Opportunity: The Status and Direction of Blended Learning in Ohio," which summarizes the results, blended learning is defined as "online learning that typically takes place at a physical school, where students have some control over time, place, path or pace." That can be implemented in multiple ways, according to the report's authors. About half of respondents are using either a la carte (52 percent) or rotation models (50 percent) — or both. In the a la carte model students choose to take one or more online courses to supplement their schedules while the teacher is online. In the rotation model students rotate between learning online and learning face-to-face on a fixed schedule. A third of respondents (35 percent) reported the use of the flex model, in which students take the majority of courses online at school in a personalized schedule with on-site teachers or teacher aides providing support. A quarter (26 percent) said they used "enriched virtual" blending, where students take courses online from home but visit a physical campus to meet with a teacher.

Schools offered blended learned for three primary reasons: to personalize learning (73 percent), provide more course choices (58 percent) and improve student academic outcomes (53 percent). Nothing else came close. Those same motivators came in among the top three choices for respondents who said they intend to implement blended learning, though in a slightly different order.

The top three challenges cited by schools in implementing blended learning were finding "high-quality professional development" (36 percent), getting staff buy-in (34 percent) and funding the initiative (32 percent).

Looking back at their implementations, a third of respondents said that they wished they had planned more thoroughly, 28 percent said they wished they'd provided more professional development to their teachers and 21 percent said they wouldn't do anything differently.

The report's authors reminded readers that blended learning itself isn't the goal. "Rather, leaders should focus on supporting innovations that move the state toward increasing student achievement, improving the metrics used to evaluate blended learning, improving the quality of the current blended-learning programs and expanding collaboration among innovators," they wrote.

To address the challenges faced by schools and educators, the report made four recommendations:

  • To do better coordination and collaboration of blended learning across the state;
  • To train school leaders on iterative innovation processes to help them learn how best to meet their specific goals;
  • To make high-quality professional development for blended learning more available and easy to find; and
  • To provide more resource support for blended-learning efforts — not necessarily just funding, but also resources to "alleviate the funding strain that school and district leaders are feeling."

The report is available on the Learning Accelerator site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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