It’s no secret that online and blended learning are picking up momentum nationwide—and during a recent International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) webinar, experts offered advice for school leaders who hope to begin their own online or blended learning programs.
While many use the terms interchangeably, online learning and blended learning differ slightly, said webinar moderator Butch Gemin of the Evergreen Education Group, which publishes iNACOL’s annual “Keeping Pace with Online Learning” report.
Online learning is teacher-led instruction delivered primarily via the internet, and it includes software to provide a structured learning environment. Teachers and students are separated by geography.
Blended learning occurs any time a student learns in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar place, away from home, and at least in part through online delivery, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.
Many school districts begin with a pilot online or blended learning program but run into challenges when they try to scale up the program, said Evergreen Education’s Chris Rapp, who works with schools around the country as they start or expand online learning programs.
“You have to know where you want to go if you’re going to get there,” he said. Rapp outlined four key program components for education leaders to consider.
Creators of online or blended learning programs should know their educational goals, program, structure, and course content before they begin, Rapp said.
Knowing what grade levels will be served and whether courses will be full-time or supplemental, spread over a traditional calendar year or follow a nontraditional calendar, and let students learn at their own pace or follow a cohort-based pace are all important considerations.
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