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[Talking Ed] 5 Biggest Pitfalls of Blended Learning

[Talking Ed] 5 Biggest Pitfalls of Blended Learning

After you’ve decided to take the plunge and begin to implement blended learning at your school, there are many pitfalls to consider and avoid. In this Talking Ed video, we’ll discuss the five biggest pitfalls of blended learning and share tips for what you can do to avoid them!

Video Transcription

Hi, everybody! Welcome to another Edmentum whiteboard session. My name is Tony Skauge. I'm the   services program manager here at Edmentum, and I'm really excited to take you through the topic today of blended learning. More specifically, we're going to talk about what not to do when trying to implement a new blended learning strategy at your school or your site. I put together five big pitfalls you should think about when trying to implement a new strategy and some ways that you, as a school district leader, administrator, or teacher, can avoid some of those—anticipate, right, rather than just react. Let's walk through a couple of these together.

Pitfall #1: Not preparing a timeline with goals
The first one here is not being prepared with a goal and a timeline. . If you are going through and working to implement a new blended learning strategy and you do not have a specific timeline with specific, smart, measurable outcomes—goals—you’re going to have a problem. You need to drop that anchor. You need to say: "We're going to rally around this specific blended learning model or structure. These are the goals that we have for our students and for our educators, and this is the timeline that's going to take us there.”

That gives you something, as an educator or an administrator, to look back on—to reflect back on—as a team to say: “We're doing a great job here, but we need to work a little bit more on maybe a couple of different techniques in the classroom. Or, you know what, we're doing an excellent job of focusing on behavior management as it relates to station rotation model, but we know we need a little more resources to support our students.”

Those are the types of conversations that you can facilitate as a larger school or district if you have a really clean timeline with measurable, smart goals. That being number one—and it really is number one for a reason—because it's really the most important part.

Pitfall #2: Not planning or preparing your team properly

Speaking of pitfalls, we're going to jump. That's a really bad joke, but I'm going to say it anyway. We're going to jump to number two. Number two is not planning or preparing your team properly. Going to your group—your group of teachers, your educators, your other administrators—and saying, "Hey, everybody. We're going to do the blended learning today." And, not having any timeline or goals, not having any opportunity to train those folks on how to do it, you're just setting yourself up for failure. Really understanding what those measurable goals are when you're implementing a new process like this and then making sure that your team—and your team does not just include the actual teachers in the classroom; your team should include everybody from their curriculum director all the way to the superintendent and down—to understand how blended learning should work. How should it look? What nuances at your specific school or site do you need to take into consideration to make sure that when you implement blended learning strategies, it's at the highest level and with the highest degree of fidelity to really impact your students in the best possible sense?

We'll go back to number one: make sure you lay out that plan. Number two: make sure you got a chance to go through and train your team properly using tools to make sure they have exactly what they need. Now, if you've laid out your goals and you've trained your team properly, you're ahead of the game, and you're starting to think: ”Well, what else can I anticipate? What else should I be able to look out for?

Pitfall #3: Not having the proper curriculum

Make sure that when you're implementing blended learning, you have the curriculum that supports that specific model. For instance, if you're going through and utilizing a flex model, for instance, of blended learning, but you really don't have a high-quality curriculum to reinforce that specific model, you're really going to struggle. You need to make sure that you have content that is not only engaging but also standards-driven and can provide reporting back to you in real time so that you, as an educator, can take that information and then shift—pivot against that information you have—to adjust your teaching techniques to be as effective as possible.

When we talk about having a high-quality curriculum, it's absolutely essential because it lays that foundation for what students are working in that blended learning model. Whether it's a rotation model and they're working in a small-group setting for interventions or if you're going to a complete a la carte method, where you want to give students an opportunity to work on full-blown courses—either for a credit recovery or first-time credit acquisition setting—having the content that is engaging, standards-driven, and gives you reporting on the spot, is absolutely essential.

Now, let's go back. Now, you've gone through and you’ve got a terrific set of goals laid out for your implementation. You've laid out a really clean timeline. You have got the fantastic training for your educators. Your educators are ready to roll. They're excited about implementing this new strategy. They know the outcomes from a student's perspective and from a teacher's perspective. And, now, you’re going through and giving them a high-quality curriculum to get this going. Now, you're starting to see that ball rolling. Now, you're starting to see how it's all coming together, and educators can start to implement this with a higher degree of fidelity.

Pitfall #4: Not getting stakeholder buy-in


Now, we've got all this laid out, but maybe we didn't do a great job of messaging this. We talk about getting stakeholder buy-in. Stakeholders don't just relegate themselves to the staff in the building. Stakeholders can include everybody from the teachers all the way to the students' parents. Making sure you have everybody on the same page as to why you want to implement this and the benefits of putting these new teaching techniques into practice is absolutely essential. So, when you have a large group of stakeholders—not only your educators but also your curriculum coaches, all the way down to your parents—having everybody on the same page as to why you're doing this and what those outcomes are is absolutely crucial because when it's time to sit back and meet with parents and help them understand why these new techniques are so crucial to creating 21st century learners, that's when the rubber meets the road in terms of why it's so crucial.

Going back to having that plan—reinforcing that plan with your stakeholders—you can start to see how it all cascades into a really successful implementation. As much as I'm sure you haven't been, you probably already jumped to number five. You're looking at it right now.

Pitfall #5: Not picking the right blended learning model

What is the fifth biggest pitfall that you should try to avoid as you're implementing blended learning? Not selecting the right model. Make sure when you go through and think about your staff, think about the experiences that they have utilizing technology in the classroom, think about how you want your students to be successful—that all plays into making a really firm and concerted decision around what type of model to choose.

If you're working back to your timeline and your plan and you know you have some gaps—you want to offer students courses that are maybe outside of your curriculum that you currently have, and you're thinking: "Maybe the a la carte method might be a good fit for me.” That's when you can start to narrow down what type of model you should work with in your class. It's OK not to have the same model to be all across the school or the district. You might have a couple of models being employed at certain sites or within an entire district, and that’s absolutely OK. But, it goes back to if you've gone through and given your staff the appropriate training—the appropriate content to go through and be successful—this model piece really takes care of itself.

Conclusion

As you're starting to think about implementing blended learning in your school or district, please take a moment and think about all of these pieces as you're starting to think about what could make your students the most successful and help your educators as they move to some new teaching techniques. Use these as markers to say: “Are we on the right track?” We kind of checked all these boxes to make sure. I hope you really enjoyed today's whiteboard session, and by all means, if you have additional questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to us here at Edmentum. We would love to help. Thank you for your time, and I'll see you again soon.