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District’s answer to overcrowding: Blended learning

Manchester, N.H., superintendent’s plan would put students in virtual courses to overcome crowded classrooms

The labs would be run by V-LACS, in which 461 high school students are already enrolled. The blended labs are part of a statewide initiative to integrate the academy’s online learning offerings into “brick and mortar” schools.

The other proposal, for remote classrooms at each of the three high schools, is estimated to cost $3,687, for special flat-screen monitors and cameras. The cameras would be placed in an actual classroom at one of the high schools, allowing students at the other schools to participate remotely. It’s not clear if there would be a supervisor in the remote classrooms.

The classrooms would enable students to take courses not offered at their high schools and would boost the enrollment in so-called “undersubscribed” courses.

Brennan did not provide an estimate for costs associated with operating the equipment or training teachers to do so. The district’s rollout of new computers has been hampered, in part, by the need to train teachers. The district’s budget for professional development is already depleted.

Brennan said he plans to speak with representatives of the Manchester Education Association, the city teachers union, about the initiatives.

For more news about blended learning, see:

New program prepares educators for blended learning

Four keys to creating successful eLearning programs

Blending the Best of Online and Face-to-Face Learning to Improve Achievement

Ben Dick, president of the union, said he has some initial concerns about the proposals. “We all know we’re down teachers, and we all know they might look for ways not to have to bring back teachers that we had at other times,” he said. He added that virtual education is “not right for every kid.”

Dick stressed, however, that he recognized the value of technology and that he was hopeful the program could be designed to create opportunities for teachers.

The superintendent said he intends to update the school board next month on the progress of the program.

Brennan is also working out details for providing college-level courses offered through UNH-Manchester, such as what times the courses will be offered. Options include during the school day, after school, and on Saturdays. The cost to the district would be $3,500 to $4,500 per course, and there might be student fees as well. The offerings likely will include introductory courses in business and computer programming.

Brennan hopes to have all three options available to students at the start of the next semester, Jan. 22.

(c) 2012, The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.). Visit The New Hampshire Union Leader online at www.unionleader.com. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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