Study of Miami-Dade's Virtual Learning Lab Reveals Key Success Factors for "Blended Learning" Programs
Menlo Park, Calif. — December 15, 2011 — As online learning programs become prevalent in U.S. schools, school and district leaders, teachers, and policy makers are looking for the best ways to use technology to enhance learning. A new SRI International report, Implementing Online Learning Labs in Schools and Districts, provides such a guide for creating successful blended learning programs that can benefit many students.
The report summarizes lessons learned from the pilot year (2010-2011) of the Virtual Learning Lab program, a collaborative effort between the Miami-Dade County public school district—one of the largest in the country—and the Florida Virtual School—a state-wide, Internet-based public high school with the highest enrollment in the country. SRI researchers collected information on 5,500 students in 38 public high schools through surveys, interviews, focus groups, and site visits to seven schools.
"We found that how schools implement blended learning—such as orientation sessions to prepare students and staff for what may be a new style of learning—makes a huge difference in student experiences and ultimately on student outcomes," said Marianne Bakia, Ph.D., senior policy analyst at SRI International’s Center for Technology in Learning and lead author of the report. "This report provides a guide and starting point for high schools implementing a mix of online and classroom learning. In addition, the report provides research-based recommendations for schools with traditionally underserved students and offers recommendations for new, targeted efforts to help support student success."
To help all students succeed in online learning lab programs, SRI found that schools should provide for students: orientation programs, ongoing support through lab facilitators, opportunities for interaction, and additional access to Internet-enabled computers outside of the scheduled lab time. There should be sufficient Internet connectivity, equipment, and technical support to allow all of the students to complete assignments on time, communicate with online instructors, and work off-site.
The report also details how to choose online courses and plan for staffing, technological, and financial needs.
This report was developed by SRI International with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.