Part Two: How St Vrain’s eCredit A La Carte Blended Learning model meets The Clayton Christensen’s Institute Definition of High Quality Blended

I have this vision that one day in our district schools will be reformed to include opportunities for blended learning.  Since starting the district’s eCredit Recovery program which runs after school, I have been on a mission to take what I know is a great model to the next level.
After my last blog post Part One: Should Blended Learning be Disruptive? From Emerging Sustaining Hybrid to Disruptive Blended Solution. Where are we in St Vrain? I found myself having to explain how eCredit meets the Clayton Christensen Institute’s definition of quality blended. According to the Institute, high quality blended is personalized, mastery-based, with student ownership,  Here’s how we meet that criteria:

Before I start, let’s clarify that the eCredit model comes closest to the A La Carte blended model and considered by the Institute to be a disruptive model of blended environments since it does away with the traditional classroom structures all together.

eCredit learning is personalized. Students are assigned the course they need to recover. They have twelve weeks in which to complete the work. They can start on any unit and progress though at their pace. Students can work through as much or as little as they choose but they do have 12 weeks to do it in. The twelve weeks involve face to face meetings with teachers for up to 2 hours a day twice a week. Because of my budget in paying the teachers after duty pay I cannot extend the time beyond the twelve weeks. This year however, we are running eCredit over winter break and into second semester, so while I am still technically only paying for twelve weeks, students get additional time.
Students take diagnostic tests in the presence of a facilitator. The tests identify what they already know and it shows up as stars on their grade book. The content then automatically generates a learning path specific to that student, eliminating what they already know. Students can take assessments at any time and if they fail it will push them though the folder again. Students can enter numeric code in their learning platform and rematch a lesson if they need to. Students can take their assessments whenever they are ready so even at home but are aware that teachers can administer pop quizzes that students must take in the presence of a teacher to validate that they did their learning.

eCredit builds autonomous learner skills: Our students are disengaged with learning and their schools and we are often their last hope for graduation or graduating on time. Teachers spend time in the first 6 meetings building students’ autonomous learner skills. Online learning requires that they are self-directed and so we thoughtfully build that into their learning experience. We start with community building activities that are also goal setting and time management embedded activities. We empower students by giving them a good orientation to the courseware and from there build the habits they will need to take charge of their learning. We model how to use the gradebook feature to manage their learning, to set goals on a daily, weekly and 12 week basis so that students know from the moment they have their learning path what their plan is. Students get to schedule what they want to do, how many how little and from there adjust their goals as they move through the course. But we don’t just leave them to their devices, we closely monitor their progress while they self-monitor as well and build in follow through and one on one conferencing. You would think a senior with one class left to graduate would be motivated, and self-directed, but that isn’t always the case.  We also build study skills. We do intentional direct instruction on note taking skills – so rather than assuming everyone knows how to take notes, we build in the skills.

In eCredit, Mastery is required to earn credit: Now this is a tricky area. Most activities are scheduled to have students repeat a quiz if they failed. If they fail it more than once a student is locked out and must seek the assistance of a teacher. This is an opportunity for the teacher and student to discover what the learning gap is, reteach, differentiate and so on. Sometimes, students have moved though without showing mastery on a quiz yet still earning an overall passing score. However, students cannot earn credit unless they show mastery on their course overall and some have refailed their courses for a second time.

We build relationships in eCredit : From day one, the eCredit recovery program was my baby and so it was something i had the opportunity to set up my way.  I wanted the relationship piece to be at the center of our work with students. So every time teachers and students meet in eCredit, there is always a community building component as well as brain breaks that involve movement that also fosters community. We introduced a parent orientation this year which we wanted to do to connect with families and empower parents to support their students at home.
We want students to attend after school and so based on best practices we know we need to build relationships with them as soon as they start.

Some eCredit locations will serve students from 5 different schools and the teachers may not know any of them so relationship building is what will carry us through the next twelve weeks and ensure students attend the blended setting because when they do, magic happens, we are able to build the habits, skills, and when that happens, they start to care about their learning and then something more happens which shocks them, really, they are shocked by the fact that they can be successful and that they can learn something they have struggled with for years … when you get a disengaged student shout out, “I get it now!” or “Take that!” to mastering a concept , we know we are doing more than instruction– we are building tenacity and grit that disengaged students cannot magically, automatically reach without the intentionally designed building blocks of our eCredit Recovery blended model.

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