Ohio on cutting edge of blended learning practices

OBLN grant puts Ohio as one of seven in new national blended learning pilot

This month, more than 70 educators from 16 Ohio school districts will begin six months of a program that at its completion will put them ahead of their peers in knowing how to advance blended learning.

These principals and administrators are part of the Leadership in Blended Learning program provided by the Ohio Blended Learning Network through a grant from the Friday Institute at North Carolina State University. An additional three Ohio school districts will get started this fall with the Mentor Public Schools, which is a partner on the Ohio grant. In all, more than 100 Ohio principals and administrators will have started or gone through the program by the end of the year.

This job-embedded professional learning experience was developed by the Friday Institute, which had previously created and delivered a similar professional development program for principals in North Carolina. The Learning Accelerator (TLA), a national non-profit shepherding high-quality blended learning, saw that the work of the Friday Institute filled a gap in the development of blended learning, that being having principals who could support and lead on blended learning initiatives in their buildings.

TLA funded the Friday Institute to develop curriculum for this national pilot. OBLN was one of seven to receive the grant, valued at more than $300,000, and joins educators across the country as they advance blended learning.

The other six organizations that received Leadership in Blended Learning grants are as follows: Fulton County Schools, GA;
Greeley-Evans School District 6, CO;
LEAP Innovations, Chicago, IL;
Rhode Island Association of School Principals, RI;
Rocketship Education, CA, TN;
and Rogers Family Foundation, in Partnership with Oakland Unified School District, CA.

Facilitators from each of the grantees received intensive training in Raleigh, N.C. earlier this year. The facilitators from the Ohio Blended Learning Network were already experienced technical assistance providers.

In Southwest Ohio, the facilitators are Lynn Ochs, Senior Learning Designer at the Mayerson Academy, and Trisha Underwood, Curriculum and Instruction Supervisor at the West Clermont Local Schools. In Central Ohio, they are Stephanie Hollar and Sarah Folzenlogen, consultants at connectingEd. Mentor Public Schools has several facilitators as well.

The course, delivered in a blended learning format, is rolled out in five modules over five to six months, resulting in an action plan for principals to use in their buildings to advance blended learning.

The key questions that will be addressed in the learning experience include:

  • What is blended learning?
  • How do I establish a culture for blended learning in my school?
  • What support do teachers need to transition to blended learning?
  • What systems need to be in place for a successful blended learning transition?
  • How do I plan for sustainability of the blended learning initiatives?

My hope is that the course and ongoing technical assistance to participating schools and districts will result in building significant capacity in the state to begin to deliver at scale high-quality blended learning in the state.

The participants represent a cross-section of school districts across three regions, each with differing levels of experience in blended learning.

In Central Ohio, 42 participants are from Delaware City Schools, Gahanna-Jefferson Local Schools, Grandview Heights City Schools, Marysville Exempted Village Schools, Olentangy Local Schools, Reynoldsburg City Schools, and Worthington City Schools.

In Southwest Ohio, 30 participants are from Batavia Local Schools, Deer Park Community City Schools, Forest Hills Local Schools, Loveland City Schools, Madeira City Schools, Mariemont City Schools, Milford Exempted Village Schools, West Clermont Local Schools, and Wyoming City Schools. Most of these school districts are members of the High AIMS Consortium.

An additional participant is from the Hamilton County Educational Service Center.

Later this year in Northern Ohio, nine participants from Vermilion Local Schools, Perkins Local Schools, and Antwerp Local Schools will get underway with the principals and administrators at Mentor Public Schools.

In all, this first round of professional development includes districts representing nearly 100,000 students. A second cohort beginning in December is being planned by the Ohio Blended Learning Network, and we will bring forward more details soon on how to be considered for that cohort.

In the end, Ohio will be able to provide a significant advantage to students in those buildings where the principals and teachers can make the shift to high-quality blended learning. That shift can result in teachers being able to use existing resources more effectively, resulting in greater personalization of learning for students.

Ohio already has great examples in some districts and some classrooms. Now, the state is poised to build an infrastructure that can support and scale blended learning to the building and district level in most several regions.

Stayed tuned.

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