Ten New Albany High School teachers are starting new "blended learning" classes in January that will combine the traditional classroom setting with online learning.
Donnaree Banton-Edmonds, who teaches English to students with different learning abilities, told the New Albany-Plain Local school board Dec. 10 her class will have the traditional classroom learning three days a week. The other two days, students will work independently in a computer lab in the lower library.
"They will be interacting with a medium they like to use," Banton-Edmonds said.
Banton-Edmonds said the students will be given online tools that are interactive and they will be able to communicate with their teachers to get questions answered immediately.
She said to master concepts, her students must repeat work, which they will be challenged to do while working online. More difficult pieces of their education, such as grammar, will continue to be taught in traditional face-to-face instruction.
Students will be encouraged to work at their own pace, Banton-Edmonds added.
Board member Natalie Matt asked how students working independently at different levels would be able to come back together in the classroom and learn together.
Banton-Edmonds said the face-to-face lessons can be adjusted so that the students can continue at their own pace. But, she said, the blended learning course is expected to encourage students who may lag behind to increase their pace.
High school physics teacher Greg Morris said his class next semester will include more contact hours with students, which should improve the students' overall performance.
He said he has students in class for 220 minutes a week now and the minimum recommended for physics classes is 270 minutes. Some schools, he said, specifically mentioning those in the Dublin City Schools, have 400 minutes of contact with physics students.
Morris said he will divide his classes into classroom lectures with material provided to students electronically that they can learn at home. They will be expected to come to class with questions.
Laboratory days will change, allowing the students to perform different experiments at their own pace instead of having all students perform the same experiments at the same time.
Morris said he is creating a website on which students can ask each other questions in addition to asking him questions.
School board member Mark Ryan asked if Morris must create online content to use for the class.
Morris he is developing most of his own content, which has required a lot more of his time. He said he's been sketching out lectures and taping some information that can be provided to the students.
Banton-Edmonds said she has been able to find some electronic materials the students can use.
Marilyn Troyer, the district's chief of innovation, improvement and human capital, said the amount of electronic material will change depending on the type of class.
Matt asked if data backs up the claims that students can improve their performances in a blended learning classroom.
Cathryn Chellis, the district's K-12 learning coach for educational technology, said the district will provide data from these courses.
There is little data on the effect of blended learning in primary education, Chellis said, but higher education statistics show some students perform better in blended learning classes because the education is more personalized.
The district expects 180 students to be part of the project, taking the new courses in English, math, social studies, science, senior seminar, digital photography, music and pottery starting in January.
The teachers spent the first semester of this school year taking a graduate course on blended learning through Ashland University. They had to apply to be part of the class, which was paid for with an eTech Ohio grant the district received earlier this year. The school district will receive $130,000 from the grant over the next two years: $80,000 in 2012 and $50,000 in 2013.