#BlendedLearning Implementation: Operations, Systems and Policies

This is the continuation in a series about the 6 Elements for the Implementation and Sustainability of Blended Learning initiatives that I helped develop for iNACOL.

elementgraphic2The six elements that are needed to sustain and implement a blended learning program include:

* Leadership
* Professional Development
* Teaching / Instructional Practice
* Operations, Systems and Policies
* Content
* Technology

I have talked about the importance of leadership, professional development and teachers. Today the focus is on Operations, Systems and Policies.

Successful implementation of blended learning requires the use of digital learning systems that provide teachers, school administrators, students, and parents with real-time student progress information and the ability to easily adapt content and instruction based on student performance. The systems in a school or system can include the learning management system (LMS), the content (or curriculum) management system (CMS), student information system (SIS), benchmark testing system, and other systems such as the library system. Ideally, data from all of these types of systems can be easily accessed as needed by school administrators and teachers. However, as of this writing, there are few systems in place that truly provide this type of easily accessible “data dashboard.”

In addition, the policies and the culture of the school needs to embrace innovation because implementing blended learning does not always go as smoothly as envisioned. School policies should be in place that reward innovation to impact student learning. A review by a team of teachers and administrators can uncover policies that may inhibit the type of innovation and experimentation needed when implementing a blended learning initiative.

Examples of policies that may need to be examined include but are not limited to: seat-time as a measure student performance and funding, length of time that a student has to complete required courses, scheduling availability of courses, instructional credentials, professional development to support blended and online teachers, access to required technologies, and privacy issues for student information.

Key Questions to Ask Regarding Operations, Administrative Systems, and Policy

  • How does the plan for blended learning potentially change the structure of a traditional school day (scheduling)?
  • Which state, district, and/or local policies foster or inhibit implementation (testing, accountability)?
  • What data should be collected to support individualized student learning? What systems are in place to collect this data?
  • What CMS/LMS will be utilized for the delivery of digital content and instruction?
  • What ongoing professional development will be provided to teachers engaged in blended learning?
  • What support services to students will be provided?
  • How will parents be both informed about what blended learning is, and how they can support the effort?
  • How will this new way of delivering instruction necessitate a change in teacher observations and student evaluation?

Some of the promising practices regarding operations, systems and policies that support the flexibility and innovation needed for the implementation of blended learning include:

  • One course management system selected by staff, teachers and administrators that includes the types of reports and analytics that allow teachers to easily personalize learning for students
  • Operational support for teachers is provided by one identified administrator who interacts often with a lead blended learning teacher or blended learning team
  • A culture of data driven decision-making is developed throughout the school from administrators to teachers to parents and students. Individuals at all levels need to understand how to best access, process and act upon real-time student data.
  • Participating teachers share a common planning time during the work day on at least a bi-weekly basis
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