Discover how New Hampshire is sustaining positive blended learning policies in its schools

blended-competencyAs new educational models gain support among educators and students who want to learn in new and different ways, blended learning is perhaps one of the strongest among these new models.

Now, researchers have discovered that some of these models work well together–for instance, blended learning and competency-based learning, another strong model in which students advance based on mastery and not grade level or time-in-seat, have evolved to overlap and complement one another.

A new report from the Clayton Christensen Institute, authored by Julia Freeland, notes that blended learning supports competency-based learning in at least four ways:

1. “Online content can offer a continuum of learning along which students can progress at a flexible pace.”

2. Assessments can be delivered on-demand when students are learning online.

3. Students have more than one lesson, or one information source, through which to access content, because online learning is delivered in a “more modular manner” than face-to-face instruction. This leads to students having “multiple pathways to mastery.”

4. Blended learning offers tools for personalized education, which can support districts that are trying to scale competency-based learning systems.

(Next page: How blended learning supports competency-based learning in five New Hampshire schools)

In New Hampshire, Freeland writes, the state department of education “has mandated that high schools measure learning in terms of competency, rather than by credit hours. Some schools in New Hampshire have embraced this new policy by building competency-based models in their schools and classrooms, whereas others have remained tethered to time-based practices.”

The report focuses on 13 New Hampshire schools that have implemented blended learning in various ways, and indicates that “blended-learning models that tend to be disruptive relative to the traditional classroom appear especially well suited to support competency-based education at scale.” Those schools maintain promising practices that demonstrate this support, mostly through the Individual Rotation, Flex, A La Carte, Flipped Classroom, and Station Rotation models.

Here are short snapshots of blended learning success in five New Hampshire schools. School descriptions are much more detailed in the report.

1. Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS): A La Carte, Enriched Virtual models
Most courses are implemented with the A La Carte blended learning model. Students progress through the school at their own pace, and the courses include competency assessments that require students to demonstrate their mastery of each concept. It maintains partnerships with every state high school and some middle schools, with some high schools creating blended learning labs to connect students with VLACS courses. The school also offers competency recovery organized in a modular way.

2. North Country Charter Academy: Flex model
This alternative high school serves at-risk students and dropouts with a competency-based environment. Students learn online and use educational software and are able to choose not only their learning pace, but have control over what course and subject material they study on a particular day. Teachers monitor students as they move through a customized online class schedule, and students have access to face-to-face support and offline small-group instruction with a teacher.

3. Milan Village Elementary School: Station Rotation, Individual Rotation models
Once identified as needing improvement, Milan Village’s principal redesigned the school’s model into one that would enable students to progress at a flexible pace while allowing them to access content in a blended learning environment. Beginning with 2nd grade, each student has his or her own computer and alternates between online and offline learning with the guidance of teachers, who assign online or offline lessons to students based on each student’s individual progress and learning style.

4. Windham High School: Flipped Classroom, Station Rotation models
Windham High School was the first one-to-one school in the state, focuses heavily on technology, and is in a limited competency-based phase. But due to the school’s technology emphasis, students are able to use blended learning models to engage in time-based learning. Students in Algebra classes have access to teacher-produced video content that features various forms of instruction, allowing students to personalize their learning and use the video that aligns with their learning styles. The school has not fully adopted competency-based learning, but the report notes that the school’s blended learning practices support new ways of instructional delivery and student learning.

5. Oyster River High School: Flipped Classroom, Station Rotation models
While this school is still predominantly time-based and traditional, some teachers are using blended learning models to move to a more competency-based model. One award-winning teacher assigned her students different projects based on how they progressed through the material, enabling students to move ahead if they’re ready, or receive extra help if they need it.

This report is a follow-up to an earlier report about blended learning, found here.