Last week Penn Foster had the honor of attending YouthBuild's 11th Annual Instructional Leadership Institute. This year's event, which took place from August 1-3, 2016 in Boston, MA, gathered together YouthBuild staff and educators from around the country to share best practices from the education field. This year's theme, "Everyone Leads, Everyone Educates" focused on strategies and approaches for YouthBuild program staff to lead and teach in ways that reach and empower all learners. In keeping with this theme, Penn Foster presented cutting-edge research on the impact of blended learning on non-traditional learners. Read on to learn about some of the best practices we discussed for implementing a blended learning program within a youth organization:

Provide Access to Non-Academic Supports

In Penn Foster's years of working with organizations to provide education in a blended learning environment, a common thread among our most successful partners has been their commitment to providing students non-academic supports. At YouthBuild programs across the nation, this has meant providing on-center instructors or program managers to help motivate students to complete their studies. Additionally, YouthBuild programs have offered career coaches to ensure that students are enrolled in the right program for their unique goals. These on-site resources, supplemented by online and in-person academic services, create a surround sound support system that enables the learner to thrive.

Offer Supplemental Soft Skills Training

An important indicator of student success is their ability to obtain post-graduation employment. The most successful implementations of blended learning that we've encountered have all enabled students take ownership over their education and career pathway, in a controlled and supported environment. The blended learning model in itself offers growth opportunities by enabling students to practice responsibility and time management. In addition to this inherent training, we have found that the most successful blended learning programs emphasize the importance of soft skill development and offer additional resources in areas that matter most to employers. Coaches can focus on skills such as professionalism, punctuality, and interview etiquette, among others.

Form Strategic Partnerships with Educators and Employers

A deeper dive into one of our partners, YouthBuild Gainesville, demonstrates the importance of forming meaningful partnerships with the community. The Gainesville program is able to offer a blend of classroom learning and online coursework through Penn Foster's regionally and nationally accredited high school curriculum. Additionally, by partnering with local Santa Fe Community College, YouthBuild Gainesville offers a direct postsecondary pathway for YouthBuild/Penn Foster High School graduates. A record 93% of the students of YouthBuild Gainesville's class of 2016 have received their high school diplomas, with nearly 75% of this year's graduates planning to pursue a post-secondary education at Santa Fe Community College.

Access the full blended learning report:

Download Report

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