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The Common Mistakes of

Implementing Blended

Learning  

 

BY JUDY BAUERNSCHMIDT

A few things I’ve learned the hard way during my 10 years working on online course delivery and blended learning in K-12 education. School district leaders might consider these when starting their own blended programs.

Reinventing the wheel when numerous resources are available. Districts planning to build blended programs should start with free planning tools, including websites that offer how-to guidance. A Google search leads to resources on defining blended learning, readiness assessment tools, planning toolkits and best practices.

Starting a program with traditional thinking. Current practices create barriers to successful blended programs. Come to the table willing to hear recommendations for systemic change.

Believing the only blended option is a supplemental program — one that combines online and brick-and-mortar classes. A range of blended learning models exists. These include teachers entering blended learning with a “soft” start to fully engage students before they learn remotely most of the time.

Not tracking student achievement data in blended learning. In Colorado, data from state assessments, graduation rates, and anything used for accreditation and evaluating performance belong to the schools that claim the full-time enrollment of the students. Supplemental and other blended program data are not tracked or reported to the state — a disservice to blended learning. Presenting relevant data about blended programs can create opportunities for replicating models that work for students.

Overlooking accountability to determine a program’s effectiveness. Few staff know what constitutes a quality program. District leaders should participate in conferences or other forms of professional development to hold program leaders more accountable.

Failing to know what questions to ask of vendors. One of the biggest (and costliest) mistakes occurs when schools or districts purchase products and services that are not necessary for their programs. Some vendors offer package deals that may include products that will never be used or may be too sophisticated for the needs of new programs.

Overlooking a succession plan. Educators experienced in day-to-day operations of online and blended instruction are in high demand, but the supply is low. Districts must take advantage of the intellectual property they have by ensuring others are trained so their programs are not dependent on one person.

 

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