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State Council Releases Findings on Blended and Online Learning

State Council Releases Findings on Blended and Online Learning

Last year, the Commissioner of Education moved to establish a temporary Online Learning Advisory Council to make recommendations and issue guidance on blended and online learning in New York State. 

The Council, which was comprised of eleven members with various expertise in online and blended learning, released its findings which included "a list of recommendations to support the further development and expansion of online learning opportunities for students,” said THEJournal.com

The Council defined online learning as such:

Online Learning is teacher led education that utilizes technology with Intranet/Internet based tools and resources as a delivery method for instruction, research, assessment, and communication. It may be synchronous (in real time) or asynchronous (separated by time) and accessed from multiple settings (in school and/or out of school buildings). Online learning can be fully online, with all instructions taking place through Internet, or online elements can be combined with face--to--face interactions in what is known as blended learning.

The Council found that the New York Education Department has a responsibility to provide online learning and a digital understanding to its students.

"Students today are creating online lives and identities, and schools too often leave students to mediate these online identities without support and guidance,” the report said.

According to the report, the Council found that most schools in New York need to do more to "create access to new online learning experiences and to create a digital transformation with online learning tools in…classrooms.”

When it came to implementation, the Council found that the most successful schools in online learning came from schools that practiced "system-wide planning between administration and teachers.”

School-wide communication across students, teachers and administration, the report found, was a pivotal part of successfully implementing online learning.

In order to continue success in online and blended learning, the Council made specific recommendations for how New York schools should move forward that other schools in other states might benefit from, as well.

For one, the Council found a need for significant professional development grants. Specifically, it recommended $100 million in grants to "support multi-year professional development grants."

"These grants will support both planning and implementation to expand development of instructional skills using online tools in classrooms, and online course availability and capacity.”

The Council also called for more staffed professionals trained in edtech in New York. The Council found that compared to other states, New York has an “insufficient allocation of staff and expertise to support innovations in educational technology.”

The Council recommended a Chief Digital Officer to lead edtech decisions in the state as well as a newly established standing committee to "develop policy recommendations for the Commissioner to improve opportunities for online learning programs, as well as policy recommendations to support a digital transformation in our schools.”

"We recommend that at least 50% of this committee be drawn from a rotating pool of PK-12 and Higher Education,” the report said.

But, despite these recommendations and several others to continue successfully implementing online and blended learning ,the Council declined to make suggestions for statewide/large-scale implementation due to a lack of conclusive research.

"Since there is a lack of conclusive research concerning PK-12 online and blended models – especially in statewide implementation of large--scale systems (e.g. Florida and North Carolina), the Council has chosen not to recommend a state-wide requirement for a high school credit in online instruction.

The Council encourages supporting further research as well as supporting more training for online and blended learning instruction in teacher preparation.

Read the full report.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

1/05/2015

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