Blended learning adds flexibility to HS schedules

Friday, December 6, 2019

“Blended learning” is gaining a foothold at Storm Lake High School this academic year. The hybrid courses combine in-class, online and independent study, and are designed to help prepare students for college studies that are increasingly taking place online.

The skills are necessary, but Superintendent of Schools Stacey Cole recently told the board of education, “We’ve learned that high school kids aren’t - always - awesome at online classes.”

The flexibility is providing valuable, however, as students don’t always have time in their class-day schedule to take all the classes they would like, and with blended learning, they can do much of the work before or after school hours.

The Department of Education has not backed off its stringent list of required classes, which sometimes makes it hard for schools to offer, and students to fit in, electives and the kind of hands-on classes that some parents want to see.

“They are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. On one hand they want to push for more new classes, but on the other hand, they won’t let go of any of the requirements.”

“We’re taking baby steps to get there,” Cole said of the blended classes. School leaders are meeting with teacher and students to determine whether it should expand, or “put the brakes on.”

School board member Dave Skibsted noted that there is a big push on in Iowa for apprenticeship forms of learning. The local leaders are also interested in working with Iowa Central Community College on classes that might lead to high-school age students earning certifications that can lead to jobs in technical fields.

High school principal Seith Monahan told the board that, “Teachers are seeing value in the blended learning. We’re listening to the students.”