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How to Successfully Scale Personalized Learning: Six Key Lessons from Effective Programs

Strategies for implementing blended and online programs district wide

Personalized blended and online learning programs have helped many districts provide access to more courses and to improve student outcomes. But how do you start a program and then scale it across your school and district? In this web seminar, originally broadcast on March 18, 2015, representatives from Getting Smart and educators from an innovative district in Kentucky discussed the key lessons learned in implementing online and blended learning, and how these programs can benefit teachers and students.

NICOLE BONO
Director, marketing
Fuel Education

At Fuel Education, our mission is to leverage technology and quality curriculum to personalize students’ online learning experience and improve their outcomes. We offer more than 500 courses for pre-K through grade 12. We strive to provide the solutions you need, whether you’re serving high-performing students, those who need remediation, or all learners in between. We’re very excited about our partnerships, the most recent being with Middlebury Interactive Languages for an ELL solution. We also partner with Presence Learning for online special education, which includes online speech therapy, and LearnBop, for an automated math tutoring system. We aim to provide students with choices and to expand their course options. We provide personalized learning through Peak, our personalized learning management system. Through Peak, education providers have all their courses under one umbrella and can customize them by bringing in OER content, whether from YouTube, Kahn Academy, Britannica Schools, or others.

TOM VANDER ARK
CEO & partner
Getting Smart

The Peak platform does a great job of combining lots of courseware, but also open content and content development tools for teachers. Students often have the benefit of proprietary open as well as teacher-developed content. A good blended platform will allow students to learn at their own pace, and it can create flexibility in terms of place, so they can learn at school and at home. A good platform will also help a student and their teacher monitor their progress. One of the main benefits of personalized learning is continuous feedback. We don’t have to just teach a lesson and test at the end of the lesson.

Increasingly there are embedded assessments that provide continuous feedback to both students and teachers. Another benefit is that for students who need more help, blended platforms often provide scaffolding, so it’s easy to find quick questions.

CARRI SCHNEIDER
Director of policy & research
Getting Smart

In our research in districts across the country, we see two primary benefits of personalized learning: improved outcomes and expanded access. We worked with Fuel Education to get a representative sample of the districts who are partnering with them to start or expand their personalized blended learning opportunities. We talked to those administrators to find out why they made the choices they did, so that we could find lessons and share them with people who are either just at the beginning of their own implementation efforts or starting to think about expansion.

What we heard often is that there is a wide spectrum of students who are served. Many start with credit recovery. Others start with AP courses. And then as outcomes improve, we start to see the expansion of blended and online programs through the full continuum of learners. When it comes to access, the advantage is not just about access to more courses and different courses, but also the whole idea of anytime, anywhere learning—of extending the learning beyond the school day. Some of the common benefits we heard were being able to be flexible in new ways; the importance of customization and how that positively impacted student motivation; the empowerment that teachers were feeling; and the importance of teachers feeling very involved, especially when it came to customizing content.

SHANNON BURCHAM
Principal
Trigg County High School
TCPS (Kentucky)

Over the last two years we’ve started going to a 1-to-1 environment in grades 9 and 10, and we intend to go to a third level next year with our junior class. Phasing it in one year at a time, along with using Fuel Education, has allowed us to have tremendous success in this implementation in just a couple of years. We’re looking for educational programs that will allow our students to compete with anybody in the world. FuelEd brings a number of programs and courses that we wouldn’t be able to offer, so our students are exposed to content that they wouldn’t be otherwise.

We began this process with FuelEd through the Middlebury Program in world languages. We now can offer French, Spanish, Latin and German, and we hope to add Mandarin Chinese in the next few years. Our goal at the district level is to transition to a complete competency-based learning system where time is the variable and learning is the constant. There are challenges. Some students learn better in a traditional setting than online. But, we feel that every student’s needs can be met through a combination of models—either through a fully virtual model, through a traditional model, through a blended model, or through an online instruction process where we don’t just stop and look at where our kids are at the end of the school year, but rather on a daily basis.

MICHELLE STRICKLAND
Program administrator
Trigg County High School
TCPS (Kentucky)

Last year we had about 500 registrations through online learning, either through languages or through electives that were being taken through FuelEd. This year we have 1,800 registrations. Online learning grew quickly because of the way we were able to integrate it into programs that were already successful, or into programs that needed to have something additional to be more successful. For instance, our English teachers are using a portion of the FuelEd program. They built their own shell and made classes that are meeting some standards that weren’t being met before.

Also, we’re able to offer electives that we couldn’t before because we did not have teachers certified to teach them. For example, we have great agriculture teachers, but they weren’t certified to teach a veterinary science class, and we had a lot of students interested in that profession. Through FuelEd we are able to offer it online. Another driving force for this was being able to learn anywhere at any time. Because of the success we had, we decided to try it also as a replacement for summer school. We didn’t want students to be left behind. This program has benefited those students, and also students who may have just transferred into our school and were short some required courses. For them, being able to complete a course at home, on the weekends or at night has meant that they can graduate on time.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, go to: www.districtadministration.com/ws031815