Blended learning takes on a unique form in that it extends beyond the classroom to support students. Not only does this approach integrate technology to augment personalized learning, it's also structured to incorporate career preparation, supportive counselling, and opportunities to allow students to develop skills and habits for adulthood. Drawing from 'Don't Quit on Me' themes, the new report from the Center For Promise praises the wraparound services offered by successful blended programs. These services help enable students to attend school, as teachers use creative thinking, community involvement, and dedication to harbor positive, productive environments for blended learners to thrive.
Thinking Critically About Students' Lives
A blended learning model encourages instructors, program planners, and staff to think holistically about the lives of their students. What are the barriers students face to earning a diploma? What challenges day-to-day prevent students from coming to class on time, or completing assignments? Why have students disengaged after a certain period of time? Instructors may then take actionable steps towards helping students find solutions.
If flexible scheduling is not an option for a school, teachers can help students with dependents secure childcare, so that they may attend class, for example. Helping student get connected to resources in the community such as counseling, food and housing assistance, access to health care, and alternative transportation can mean the difference between struggling to get by and a gateway to a brighter future. These wraparound services are integral to a blended learning experience, especially for reengaged students in dire need of social support from adults they can trust and lean on.
Invested in Student Success
Effective educators and blended learning technology go hand-in-hand: one augments the other, and in turn, one cannot replace the other. Successful blended learning instructors act as student advisors to provide the support, guidance, and information the students otherwise may not have any access to from family, friends, or connections. Adults managing the blended learning program work to help to enable students to be able to learn--by providing the support needed beyond the classroom.
Springboard to Career Success
The programs profiled in the Center For Promise report all had a focus on helping students prepare for their futures. Blended learning has the flexibility to integrate opportunities for students to extend their reach into the communities, learn valuable job skills, gain insight into trades, and set their sights on a career path. Acting as a springboard instead of an end-game, blended learning programs help students prepare to launch into a real career, rather than just walking away with a diploma and no clue what to do next. Opportunities for students can include internships and apprenticeships, job shadowing, industry certifications or other career credentials and even credits for work experience to help students develop their career goals.
Workforce/career development organizations, like YouthBuild, provide students life and career skills, while some centers provide housing and stipends for training, and career connections. Many blended learning programs engage community partnerships with local businesses and services in order to connect students to the opportunities and resources to assist with preparation for their futures.
This dynamic works to align student competencies with the assets of their community, and make learning relevant for students by engaging the community and world the students are a part of. In doing so, students can see clear connections between their education and their career trajectories, and help to motivate and encourage students to completion.
By fostering positive, supportive relationships, building social capital between students and a community network of support, and recognizing and building upon students' strengths, blended learning programs offer a holistic approach to education that's simply not possible in purely online or traditional learning formats.