New Albany News

High school teachers develop 'blended learning' courses

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Ten New Albany High School teachers are developing courses with online components that will be tested in the second half of this school year.

The teachers are enrolled in two graduate courses through Ashland University's Columbus Center.

In New Albany, they are working with Cathryn Chellis, the school district's K-12 learning coach for educational technology.

Chellis said the teachers are developing "blended learning" classes in English, math, social studies, science, senior seminar, digital photography, music and pottery. Blended learning combines online instruction with traditional face-to-face instruction.

In the first semester, the teachers studied how students learn in an online learning environment. Chellis, who has taught similar courses at Ohio State University, said the students interact differently with their instructor and peers while working online.

The teachers also looked at the existing curriculum to find types of instruction that did not require face-to-face interaction with an instructor.

Using a digital photography class as an example, Chellis said, "There is content that you could look at to critique other pieces or learn about how the art has evolved throughout history."

Viewing other photographs with an online source is different than learning how to use the camera, which might be better taught in person by a teacher.

Kirk Hilbrands, a social studies teacher who is part of the project, is creating a course in government, politics and economics for seniors.

"The blended learning course is an alternative to a traditional course," he said. "We keep the rigor of our face-to-face course but meet less frequently as a group.

"I am able to give the students formative feedback through the computer when they are not physically in class with me."

He said the class will meet "for collaboration, explanation of new material, and clarification of content."

Chellis said the district is looking "at alternate ways of providing students with various learning opportunities," and Hilbrands said he can see the benefits.

"The blended course might allow a student to take another course on the days my course does not meet," Hilbrands said. "For example, if my course met on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 1:45 p.m., the student might be able to take an art class during the same time on Tuesdays and Thursdays."

Hilbrands said another benefit for students is "using technology in creative and productive ways, preparing them for the expectations of college courses and the real world of work."

Chellis said the district will assess each course introduced this year based on student performance

The teachers had to apply for the Ashland University graduate courses. They will receive six credits for the two courses and a stipend from an eTech Ohio grant the district received earlier this year. The $1,000 stipend requires the teachers to develop a blended learning course, implement the course, collect data on the course and participate in a study of blended learning.

The eTech Ohio grant from the state provides the district $130,000 over the next two years: $80,000 in 2012 and $50,000 in 2013.

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