Oct 28, 2013

#iNacol13 Monday 10a Session: Personalized Blended Learning; Going Statewide in Michigan

It has been a while since I tried blogging during a conference session, so we'll see how this goes. Please note: These are rough notes. Editing may be needed and clarification may be needed upon further review. I apologize for any typos and/or incomplete/inaccurate information.

Why I chose this session:
Arkansas has had a distance learning program for many years now, but Act 1280 of 2013 completely changed what distance learning means for the state. The act, dubbed "The Digital Learning Act," shifts the focus from interactive video to online delivery. Since Arkansas is just now getting into this, I wanted to hear how other states managed a statewide rollout.

What I learned/am learning:
Last year, legislature asked future of education and what is role of technology?


  • Student - Customized for each student, learns at own pace
  • Teachers - Create a statewide system for support, personalized, high-quality teachers, lots of professional development will be needed
  • Schools - must create spaces that support personalized learning. 
  • Technology - at the forefront of learning, info, accountability
  • Data - create and support a data infrastructure that can be used to create/inform individualized instruction.
  • Quality and Accountability - appoint an independent authority to evaluate the quality of content providers. Means vendors and every school district (each is technically now a provider).
Their program begins in January. Schools have to honor student requests starting in January. How do we open up choice for students with creating a "wild, wild west" mentality? How and When should online learning be implemented.

Every pupil grades 5-12 can enroll in 2 online courses in any given semester. Legislation may be adjusted to increase the limit of courses.

Districts can decide if a course is offered locally. Could convert it online and make it available to only their students. Likewise, they could put that course in a statewide catalog. The catalog simply loads a syllabus with descriptions. The courses are delivered through various vendors/mechanisms. Catalog builds awareness of the courses. Does not include enrollment services yet, but hope to add that in the future (next year). Every district required to link to catalog.

Districts or Michigan Virtual must approve all courses (locally developed) before they will appear in catalog, regardless of provider. The educator is required to be Michigan-Certified. District only obligated to use Michigan-teacher led courses. Those teachers may be certified in other states, but they hold Michigan certs or the Michigan teacher is the teacher of record for the content provided by a vendor. Districts can deny a course not taught by a Michigan certified instructor. Pupils can choose. Districts cannot restrict student access to certain courses or catalogs. (Note: that last bit may need follow up for clarification).

Course cost limits: 1/12th of the foundational allowance for a semester-length course (district would pay no more than this in fees). 1/18th for longer courses.

Six reason district could deny:
  1. Pupil already earned credits for course
  2. Course does not generate credit
  3. Inconsistent with remaining graduation requirements
  4. Pupil does not possess prerequisite skills/knowledge
  5. Pupil has previously failed online course in same subject
  6. Online course not of sufficient quality or rigor
There is an appeal process. Courses are reviewed for quality and rigor against the iNACOL standards. Michigan is training about 100 educators on what to look for etc. Building capacity to review. Reviews would cost money.  If a course does not meet rigor, district has obligation to find alternative. Appeals would be made to intermediary agency (like a Co-op) for an independent review.

A year from now, results from courses will be included in the catalog (# enrolled, #passing, Completion rates)

Courses have enrollment periods. Enrollment in courses done by random-draw if enrollment requests exceed seats available. It is NOT first-come/first-served in those scenarios. 

The student's home district is "on the hook" for failure of student - NOT the provider, even if that provider is another district. There is work to modify that.

Schools are required to provide students in online courses the same technology as the same students in the local home-student's district.

MyBlend - supporting blended learning in local districts
  • Consulting - Help facilitate blended learning at district and school level. How do we do this? How do we take the ACSIP and ask the right questions in terms of "Why do blended learning?" Tie the pieces together to benefit students 
  • Professional Development - Model what schools should be doing. Personalized PD. Use a blended approach.
  • Online Content - Library of resources (learning objects) and full courses
  • Teacher-developed Content - Teacher's Workbench. Learning objects (videos, gizmos, etc) and other content can be incorporated. This is at the lesson level, not the course level.  Michigan Virtual takes the skeleton/outline and then develops a course/courses around the teacher-created content. 
Packaged differently, specifically for each district - not a "one-size fits all" approach. Some schools are developing courses. Other districts have teachers who have never seen an online course. Teachers track student progress, and can make changes in what student is learning based on personal needs.

A set of standards is used to approve courses being offered. There is a rubric tool and outside evaluators as well as subject-matter experts when creating courses. Curriculum maps used as well. Courses are reviewed on a regular basis over time. Data from college board for AP courses compare online delivery with traditional delivery.  Make sure that teachers interact with students.  This does not apply to vendor-based courses. Michigan Dept of Ed holds the job of course approval overall. 

Train teachers as to what to look for in online courses, online teachers, etc.

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