New program prepares educators for blended learning

Upon completing the course, educators should be well versed in designing, presenting, and assessing lessons in both an online and a blended learning environment.

Many brick-and-mortar schools want to incorporate more online instruction—but how should teachers prepare for the newly popular blended classroom? An update to a national certification program for educators promises to help them teach in a blended learning environment.

Leading Edge Certification (LEC)—an alliance of education agencies, nonprofit organizations, and universities—has updated its educational technology course, now renamed the Online and Blended Teacher Certification program.

In a shift from its previous focus solely on online learning, the eight- to 10-week course—which debuted last year—now includes both online and blended learning topics in each of its eight modules. Upon completion of the course, which follows iNACOL’s national standards for high-quality online teaching, educators should be well versed in designing, presenting, and assessing lessons in both an online and a blended learning environment.

Mike Lawrence, founding chair of LEC, said school leaders have expressed a strong preference for blended learning over pure online learning, according to preliminary results of the California Learning Resource Network (CLRN) e-Learning census administered this spring.

“Traditional schools want to take advantage of existing facilities. [Moving to blended learning] is a much easier step than, ‘What, I’m never going to meet these kids?’” said Lawrence.

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Each module of the course, usually covered in one week, requires educators to read a digital textbook, which includes embedded quizzes and other formative assessments. Educators prepare one or two assignments based on their reading: If the lesson was on accessibility, for example, one assignment might be to create a sample of accessible content.

Throughout the week, instructors post probing questions on the course discussion board, provide feedback on assignments, and hold virtual office hours on a platform such as Skype or Google Hangouts.

At the end of the instructional week, educators submit a longer, culminating project that goes in their digital portfolio. For the accessibility unit, students might create their own ADA-compliant videos complete with headings and captions.

After eight weeks of instruction, participants submit to their instructors a final portfolio and reflection based on the webpage-creator Google Sites. If the portfolio meets the program’s standards, the instructor awards the educator LEC certification.

LEC previewed the new course curriculum at the annual Computer-Using Educators (CUE) conference March 15-17. The program designers gave instructors of the original curriculum a period to review and make recommendations about the new content, and then revised the course in time for an early April launch, said Greg Ottinger, chairman of LEC’s Online and Blended Certification Committee.

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