New Albany News

Students: Blended learning requires flexibility


Last year's pilot program of 10 blended-learning courses offered many independent learning opportunities but might not work for everyone and in every situation, four high school students told the New Albany-Plain Local school board Sept. 23.

This year, district officials plan to fully implement six blended-learning high school courses, which add online learning to the traditional classroom setting.

Cathryn Chellis, the district's K-12 learning coach for educational technology, said they are: Advanced Placement English 11; AP music theory; AP physics; government, politics and economy; honors advanced ceramics and sculpture; and senior seminar, which was completed this summer.

The four students took at least one of the blended-learning classes offered last school year and told the board their perceptions of the positives and negatives.

Flexibility was a common theme.

Senior Daniel Sosh said the blended-learning senior seminar allowed him to travel to Spain and complete the graduation requirement while out of the country.

He said he kept a journal and submitted work online.

"I was able to participate in discussion groups while I was halfway around the world," Sosh said.

The senior seminar requires students to research an idea, create a product or complete a project and document 80 hours of work.

Last summer, 38 seniors took the blended-learning senior seminar.

Senior Ashmi Patel, who took AP English 11 last year and is enrolled in AP physics this year, said the deadlines were extended in the blended-learning courses so she could do assignments at different times.

If she were participating in an after-school activity, Patel said, she did not have to get the work done after getting home late at night. She could turn it in the next day, she said.

Junior Zachary Banks said blended learning was helpful in AP ceramics and sculpture because class time is limited.

In the blended-learning course, Banks said, he could review presentations online and spend more time in class on his work.

Senior Deepti Hossain said she enjoyed AP English 11 as a blended-learning course because she is shy and finds it difficult to participate in class discussions.

In the blended-learning course, she said, she participated in online discussions.

Hossain said at first, she did not like the blended-learning senior seminar because it took more organization and she had to ask more questions about the assignments.

All four students agreed the blended-learning courses might not be for everyone.

"I think it works for a certain type of student, someone who is self-driven," Sosh said.

Patel agreed, saying she would like more teacher instruction in the blended-learning courses.

Banks said students who are struggling with a course would need more interaction with a teacher than the blended-learning classes can provide.

"I don't think personally I could succeed in all blended-learning courses," Banks said.

Chellis said the 10 teachers who piloted the blended-learning program took a graduate course on blended learning through Ashland University in fall 2012. Each teacher then designed a course, which they began piloting in January.