Blended online learning at ISBerne

Blended Online Learning At ISBerne

It is hard to believe that ISBerne began to venture into online learning over two years ago.  With the launch of the ISBerne Online website, we are confirming our belief that blended and online learning are an essential part of education for all students.

We started like most campus-based schools in wanting to extend our curricular offerings beyond what we could extend as a small school focused on the International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes. In pursuing a partnership with K12, we are able to offer over 50 courses on an elective, support and extension level that we could not possibly offer otherwise.  From Psychology to Japanese and C++ programming to AP Environmental Science, our students are able to take courses that are supportive and challenging.  We started this past year with 40 of our own grade 9 and 10 students signing up for 30 different classes as an elective choice.

While I would love to claim that every student loved their course, it was interesting to gauge the wide variety of responses from students as they tackled their coursework in a new medium.  We were surprised how much difference a teacher makes even in an online environment.  Far from being automated classes, students reacted to the personalities and level of engagement of their online teachers just like in the classroom.  Some students were in frequent email/threaded discussion contact with teachers, others had difficulty getting responses from their teachers (and, of course, we also had teachers asking students to get in touch because they were behind or not participating).  Many students took advantage of being able to work ahead and liked the self-pacing.  Our students did not like that their online courses continued through many of our local breaks and also found that teachers being in different time zones made it difficult sometimes to get timely feedback on questions or assignments.  In the end over 85% of our students completed their courses and elected to take more online courses.  What we found as educators is that the classes students took online corresponded overall with the level of academic challenge and engagement we expect in our on campus courses (more on this in a future post).

We are still at the beginning of our learning curve as a community adding online learning as a blended component of our curriculum.  We are venturing into other opportunities that we believe will give our students on and beyond our campus the chance to succeed in preparing to engage in a technology driven, globally interdependent world.  I hope to add to this blog the adventure we go through so others can learn from us and we can learn from others as we develop what I hope will blend the best approaches in education for all our students.

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