In 1840, Sir Isaac Pitman ran the first known correspondence course in which assignments were mailed to students on postcards and then returned to be graded. While remote learning technology has certainly advanced since then, many educational institutions still adhere to the structures and models developed before the time of Sir Pitman, rather than evolving in response to new challenges and changing societal needs. In the pandemic era, it has become clear that online learning has huge limitations in terms of in-person interaction and socialization. The blended learning model, which combines traditional face-to-face and online instruction, may come to the rescue.
One of the most prominent schools that has implemented the blended model over the past decade is Minerva, a university with headquarters in San Francisco and global rotations in Berlin, London, Taipei, Hyderabad, Buenos Aires, and Seoul. Founded in 2012 by former e-commerce CEO Ben Nelson, Minerva offers undergraduate and graduate programs in partnership with Keck Graduate Institute (KGI), a private graduate institution, and Minerva Project, which licenses the curriculum, pedagogy and technology used by high school, university, and professional learning programs around the world.
The virtual learning environment called Forum supplied by Minerva Project includes multiple instructor tools that enable improved participation and performance tracking within and across courses. It is designed to support active learning pedagogy and maximize student engagement. One crucial feature of Forum is the Talk Time app, which indicates to the instructor, through a color coding scheme, the level of each student’s participation compared to their peers. The app allows the instructor to provide an opportunity for less vocal or extroverted students to express themselves, making the assessment of class participation less biased and more inclusive. However, Minerva doesn’t see itself as a technology company. Its goal is to fundamentally transform education to produce free-thinking citizens capable of making thoughtful decisions. It shifts from lectures to collaborative activities, Socratic discussions, breakout groups, debates, role-playing, and simulations. It fosters the ability to apply complex concepts learned in class in multiple contexts and it provides students with a detailed picture of their progress over time. The Next Generation
At the moment, the Minerva program accepts about 150 undergraduates per year, with the entire student body of around 600. The total annual cost of attending Minerva (including tuition and living expenses) is around $33,000, with more than 80% of students qualifying for some type of financial aid (a combination of student loans, scholarships, and paid internships). Minerva’s admission is need-blind, and every qualified applicant is guaranteed acceptance. The program is also highly selective, with an admission rate of around 1%. Its model has been extremely successful: According to Minerva’s media relations office, more than 90% of the 2019 graduates found jobs at top companies such as Google and Tesla within six months of graduation.
Recently, Minerva extended its model to younger students, introducing the Minerva Baccalaureate program, an interdisciplinary four-year high school curriculum focused on developing the habits of mind essential for living in the 21st century. The program was successfully pilot-tested at Laurel Springs high school in Ojai, California, known as one of the first schools to start offering web-based programs more than a quarter-century ago. Since its launch in August 2020, it has been offered by five schools in the US, South Korea and the Dominican Republic.
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Extending blended learning to middle school may help address some unique challenges associated with adolescent students. The availability of online content enables the development of a more holistic and engaging curriculum, allows for hiring the best instructors who may not be available locally (such as a French-speaking teacher from France), and helps bring together learners from different cultures. However, online-only learning is not easy for younger children. It requires either highly motivated students or actively participating parents (essentially, the parents who are willing and able to homeschool their children). The fully online model may not work well for long courses, as children tend to be motivated by collaboration, collective activities, and human interaction. The exclusive focus on academic subjects during the most sensitive period of children’s lives at the expense of their social and emotional development may also result in growing disengagement.
This is why Le Sallay International Academy, a private international middle school founded in 2018, a pioneer in blended learning education for pre-teens, runs on a trimester schedule. Each trimester balances two months of online education with two weeks of intensive in-person activities, with an additional summer in-person session. Le Sallay’s academically rigorous program has proven particularly good for high-achieving students who need additional challenges. It also attracts children who have grown disengaged in their schools or feel like they don’t fit in, by helping them rediscover the love of learning and encouraging socialization and meaningful relationships. Providing differentiated study plans and psychological support, the Academy is a great choice for students with diverse learning needs, as well as those whose families are frequently on the move.
The annual tuition fee of $43,000 covers all classes within the school year, as well as room and board at their Chateau Le Sallay headquarters in Burgundy, France or at the Nature Classroom in Massachusetts during in-person sessions. About 75% of students qualify for financial aid. Le Sallay Academy has attracted dozens of highly engaged children from all over the world, including places where individualized education is rarely available, such as Mexico, Serbia, Hungary, Spain, Ukraine, Italy, Czechia, and Poland. The Academy, which is run by an international team of educators and child development psychologists, partners with several prominent educational organizations, including the Art of Problem Solving, New York Academy of Science, STEM Global Alliance, and the Global Education Network.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a wake up call for the educational community, highlighting the limitations of the present school structure when face-to-face interaction is no longer available. It has also shown the value of alternative educational approaches. While blended learning is not for everyone, many families choosing between homeschooling and a traditional school may find it to be the best match for their needs. Ultimately, respecting individual learning differences requires flexibility and openness toward emerging models and modes of education. This is just the kind of flexibility we may want to model for our children to help them thrive in the modern world.
Source : https://www.forbes.com/sites/juliabrodsky/2021/01/17/how-blended-learning-can-work-best/?sh=7002ed501dc4