“Blending our Approach”

By Ian Jones, Director of Education at Provost Academy Colorado
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One of the key dialogues occurring in the education world is around the idea of “blended learning.”  The most concise and unbiased definition I found was in Wikipedia: “Blended learning in educational research refers to a mixing of different learning environments. It combines traditional face-to-face classroom methods with more modern computer-mediated activities.” 

In short, a blended learning experience includes opportunities for students to learn in both a face-to-face and online environment.   

So, how do we do this in Colorado?

In the 2011-2012 school year, Provost Academy Colorado increased our blended instructional programming in the areas of academic field trips, service learning projects, and concurrent enrollment options. Engaging academic field trips continue to increase as our students have visited a local animal rescue, a trip to the county coroner’s office, engaged in conversations with career speakers, and had a day of discovery with Nobel Prize winner, John L. Hall. 

This year, we have also successfully integrated a service learning component into our U.S. Government course and launched a freshman seminar designed to not only introduce students to our environment, but also to our school-wide focus on service learning. 

Provost Academy Colorado students have served their communities in a variety of ways from self-selected local projects to school-sponsored projects including events with the Food Bank of the Rockies and our newest project with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. 

Our hope moving into next year is to increase both our curriculum-based focus as we launch a Service Learning course and increasing the number of large scale projects in which our 9th and 10th grade students participate. As students develop passion through service, they will have the opportunity as 11th or 12th graders to engage in a business internship of their choice and earn credit through our new Business Internship course, launching in the fall. 

Both of these programs are intended to blend student learning by capitalizing on the flexibility of the online environment to provide students with real-world experiential learning options.  In addition to progress in the development of our service learning and business internship programming, we have also made strides in the area of concurrent enrollment.

Over the past year, Provost Academy Colorado has established three partnerships with community colleges in our highest enrollment areas.  This year, some Provost Academy 11th and 12th graders have earned credit at Pickens Technical College and Arapahoe Community College.  In 2012-2013, we will add Pikes Peak Community College and possibly some others to the list. 

While attending Provost Academy Colorado for their core courses (English, Math, Science, and Social Studies), these students have also earned high school and college credit in programs such as photography and healthcare on an actual college campus. 

This challenging option not only provides our students with the experience of networking in a post-secondary environment, but also the gives them a jumpstart on earning college credit while attending high school.  With our partnerships with these institutions, we are able to pay for much of the cost associated with these programs while the student is enrolled at Provost Academy.  This can be extremely motivating and puts Provost Academy students at an advantage as they transition from high school. 

Qualifications

In order to participate in this program, a student must be in either the 11th or 12th grade, be on-track to graduate according to their individual graduation plan (IGP), keep up at least a “C” average, and maintain consistent and adequate attendance.   We believe that full-time students will continue to benefit as we continue to build these blended programming options, although full-time online enrollment isn’t the only option at Provost Academy Colorado.  

This year, Provost Academy Colorado offered two different enrollment options to our students – full and part-time online.  Most of our students participated in our full-time online enrollment option.  For this group of students, Provost Academy Colorado has been their only school this year.  They take at least five courses, develop an individual graduation plan (IGP) with their advisor, participate in school activities, attend school all day with us, and are eligible to participate in all of our online and blended program options.  We enroll full-time students at the beginning of our fall and winter semesters.  Some students have chosen our part-time enrollment option this year.  These students take three courses at Provost Academy and three courses at a partnering brick-and-mortar high school. In order to participate in this option, students must have written permission from both Provost Academy and the participating traditional high school. 

Students choosing the part-time option have all of the advantages of attending a brick-and-mortar school with some of the flexibility associated with an online program.  They are required to “attend” each school each day, develop an individual graduation plan (IGP) with their advisor stating which school they will graduate from, and are eligible to participate in all programs offered by Provost Academy, except our concurrent enrollment opportunities.   These options are offered for the 2012-2013 school year with an exciting addition to finish out the 2011-2012 school year. 

 

New Options for Middle-Schoolers

One additional option we are offering as we wrap up this year is our “Summer Camp.”  This is a “try before you enroll” option offered to highly-motivated eighth graders around the state as a means of allowing students to earn up to 0.5 high school credits while completing middle school this year.   

After completing one or two of the courses we are offering from May 1 – June 29, these students will have the option of choosing to enroll full-time, part-time, or transfer the credit back to their brick-and-mortar high school.   

 

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