Requirements for Implementing Blended Learning Solutions

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

This lesson will provide an overview of best practices when implementing blended learning solutions in educational settings. Infrastructure, systems integration, professional development, and technical support requirements will be discussed.

Teaching in a Technology-Oriented World

Have you ever considered the feasibility of blending online learning with traditional instruction in your classroom? Well, if you have, you have considered using blended learning solutions. With the incredible advances that have been, and continue to be, made in technology, avoiding computer use in the classroom has become virtually impossible.

Since not all students are motivated and disciplined enough to complete a fully virtual, online program, blended learning solutions offer a nice mix of traditional classroom learning with an online component. However, there are requirements that need to be considered for the successful implementation of blended learning initiatives. These include considering basic infrastructure, integration of information systems, professional development of staff, and access to technological support.

Infrastructure

In order to implement effective blended learning solutions, it is important to consider what takes place behind such an initiative. Issues related to infrastructure include broadband, power, networking equipment and management, and facilities.

Broadband

Essential to effectively integrating online learning with traditional classroom-based approaches is internet connectivity speed. It is therefore very important for schools to measure the broadband access in each area within their school. In order to determine whether a school's broadband width is suitable for incorporating an online learning component, the following actions should be performed:

  • conduct a speed assessment on current broadband performance.
  • define what can be offered in terms of blended learning solutions based on current broadband performance.
  • identify the desired level of blended learning solutions.
  • determine the feasibility of getting funding to improve broadband performance in order to offer the desired blended learning solution.

Power

It may sound elementary to say that power is an important consideration when determining the feasibility of offering blended learning, but it certainly can't be overlooked. Depending upon the age of a school building, power may be a very substantial consideration. In order to offer blended learning a classroom needs sufficient computers, and those computers in turn require electrical power in order to operate. Linking multiple extension cords is a fire and electrical hazard, and will not offer a satisfactory solution.

Networking Equipment and Management

Because technology is always changing, it is important to ensure that proper networking equipment is in place prior to implementing a blended learning solution. Wireless access points should be addressed as well as ongoing and continuous network management. Ideally a centralized location should be designated to manage the entire district but due to staffing, equipment and other costs, this may not always be practical.

Facilities

At times, implementing blended learning solutions can result in requiring actual structural changes in school buildings. This is almost always a considerable expense that the district may not necessarily be prepared for. It is important to consider current facilities and determine whether or not they will meet the needs for a blended learning program. It is equally important to consider school enrollment growth as facilities may experience increased capacity requirements in the future.

Integration of Information Systems

Crucial to any successful blended learning initiative is the ability to integrate systems. Most important is that educators have the resources to be able to integrate instructional systems with student information systems. The system should provide instructional content, opportunity for interaction, report generation, and grading capabilities based on a single sign in. Educators, students, and parents should all have appropriate access permissions to view academic content.

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