In the spirit of "Aligning the Future," the theme of APSCU's (now CECU) 2016 Annual Conference on June 6th, Penn Foster joined the conversation by discussing the positive impact on non-traditional learners that  blended learning programs can produce for students. While introducing the findings from the Center for Promise's latest report on blended learning, we shared some of the best practices organizations have utilized when implementing successful blended approaches on their campuses.

It's no secret that blended learning is an attractive alternative to the traditional classroom model - but what we were interested in sharing was first-hand accounts of how post-secondary institutions have successfully utilized the blended approach. Based on collaborating with over 100 career schools and colleges locations, we have found five essential components for successful blended implementation:

  1. Non-academic supports: Provide access to mentoring programs, advisories, guidance counselors, and/or success coaches
  2. Career development: Offer industry certifications, internships, apprenticeships, volunteer programs
  3. Partnerships: Partner with local community colleges, community organizations, and employers
  4. Life skills: Offer soft-skills courses, leadership development opportunities, community service programs
  5. Technical skills: Harness competency-based learning, integrate vocational training throughout academic programs

Through a combination of the above best practices, post-secondary institutions like Dorsey Schools and Concorde Career College have created successful onboarding ramps for students to gain the credentials they need to matriculate into their college. We shared and discussed ways in which these best practices translate to actionable processes on the ground:


By offering the support of the one-on-one mentoring between the program coordinator and each student, coupled with the student's integration into the college community, each student gets the support they need to help carve out a clear path towards a career or advanced degree.

When we asked the audience if they've tried out blended learning strategies in their classrooms, about 40 percent of the audience raised their hands. This is just one indicator that blended is seeing some widespread adoption in the career school and college space. With College of America of Southern New Hampshire University having the first blended learning program in the nation to receive federal funding and recognition, it's only a matter of time before we see a state-by-state domino effect of policy changes to recognize and approve funding for blended programs.

Taking on the challenge of implementing a blended program is well worth it, based on the success from our partners and the case studies from the Center for Promise report. By utilizing these best practices, schools will be well-aligned to meet the needs of learners of today, and for the future.

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