Innovative learning leaders shared their experiences in implementing blended learning in their schools and districts during a recent iNACOL webinar, “Blended Learning Leaders Discuss their Roadmap for Success.” As a preview to a forthcoming publication: the iNACOL Blended Learning Roadmap, the leaders provided a glimpse into promising practices that have resulted in some early successes, as well as some of the potential challenges that others may face when initiating a blended program.
The speakers, whose schools are profiled in the Blended Learning Roadmap, shared first-hand experiences and how their schools/district addressed each of the six elements of the Roadmap. The six elements of implementation are:
- Professional Development
As the profiles of each school were being written for the Blended Learning Roadmap, key questions about blended learning began to emerge that connected to the six elements, for example:
- What are the specific reasons behind choosing to use the term blended learning for schools and districts?
- Do schools and districts follow the blended learning models presented by the Christensen Institute or are there other ways to “blend?”
- Is blended learning a transformational shift in how we teach and learn within virtual and physical learning environments?
- What are the barriers and opportunities that schools are facing that blended learning can help support?
- How can leaders ensure that they create the support required to sustain a blended program beyond grants and/or the initial excitement?
Some of their most influential promising practices include:
- A clear vision and development of a shared learning culture is key in building a new process. Strong leaders need to build a team from the beginning in order to communicate and hear how things are going from all different perspectives and sustain leadership changes. It is not only about “buy in,” but also encouraging everyone to be accountable for their own learning in the process.
- It is important to develop a collaborative system of learning by using blended learning as a means to support all learners rather than trying to implement a “program.”
- Students, teachers, administrators, support staff and parents are all learners together.
- It takes time for all learners to change. Differentiated and personalized learning opportunities have to be modeled and offered to all learners.
- Plan on using some kind of data tracking system to ensure a way to collect qualitative and quantitative data that can demonstrate evidence of learning and change.
- The original plan may not be the plan with which you finish. The key to sustainable implementation is collaboration and stopping to reflect and change direction based on what the data and evidence suggest as you go along, not only at the end of the project.
- Change is not a project. This work does not end. Blended learning can work in any learning environment but it will take a lot of continuous, dedicated effort from all learners.
The webinar served as a forum to have an authentic conversation on why schools sought to implement a blended learning program and critical steps that they took in the planning and implementation stages. Panelists offered different perspectives by answering key questions about blended learning and how this new learning model fosters educational transformation.
There is no standard formula that all of the schools followed when beginning their blended learning implementation. Some leaders chose to work with private consultants, some chose to follow their gut instincts, some focused on student passions to guide the process, and some leaders chose to follow specific theoretical implementation plans. All of the panelists have in common the desire to provide students with deeper and more meaningful learning experiences through blended learning opportunities.
The iNACOL Leadership Webinar archive and the upcoming Blended Learning Roadmap will provide crucial authentic evidence to demonstrate how blended learning is working for many educators as a step towards educational change.
During the webinar, participants and panelists created a list of questions and answers about blended learning implementation as a result of the positive reaction and enthusiastic participation. Please feel free to read over the webinar participant questions and expert answers here.