May 072015
 
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On Monday, Senior Program Officer Rachel Mohl Abrahams hosted a webinar, “State of the Field of JDS Online/Blended Learning.” The webinar aimed to explore the findings from two recent AVI CHAI research reports: “Online/Blended Learning State of the Field Survey,” a quantitative report by Anne Deeter, and “Moving Forward,” an interim report of select AVI CHAI blended learning initiatives in Jewish day schools by Dr. Leslie Siskin.  The full webinar can be viewed here. This blog post aims to provide an overview of some of the trends which AVI CHAI is observing in the field.

  • The reports document tremendous growth in the field, from 23.4% of schools reporting the use of some type of online/blended learning in 2012 to 79% of schools in 2014. None of the responding schools plan to reduce or eliminate online/blended learning in any form.
  • Schools that have received support from funded initiatives in online/blended learning appear to be leading the way in this work. These pioneers include participants in the DigitalJLearning Network, Torah UMesorah’s blended learning program, ISTE conferences, and edJEWcon workshops.
  • Siskin identified eight elements of blended learning. Depending on the school, one sees emphasis and progress in certain elements and less in others. One-fifth (21%) of Jewish day schools have moved beyond online lessons and supplemental online enrichment to deliver hybrid courses, flipped classrooms, or fully online courses. AVI CHAI staff continues to think of ways to help more schools adopt more advanced models of blended learning.
  • The growth of online/blended learning raises additional challenges. The primary hurdle faced is faculty development, with more than three in four (77.7%) responding schools reporting the need to developtheir teachers’ abilities to effectively deliver online instruction. There are also shared concerns about the academic quality, customer service and responsiveness of existing content providers – as well as school-based technical capacity issues of wiring and bandwidth.
  • Online/blended learning remains largely a secular studies venture, with 14.3% of responding schools reporting that they offer Judaic studies courses or instruction online and 15.9% offering Hebrew language learning online. AVI CHAI is hoping that our work to support the development of excellent Jewish studies programs online – iTaL AM, NETA/CET, the Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy, and the Online Judaic Studies Consortium at VHS – will raise these numbers over the next few years.

Rachel also presented AVI CHAI’s focus and priorities in this work. She shared AVI CHAI’s two-fold goal in supporting only/blended learning initiatives:

  • To improve the quality of education. While we are beginning to see evidence that educational goals are being met, we do not yet have quantitative data on educational outcomes. However, we can report on perceived impact. Schools indicate that they are finding online/blended learning valuable in providing differentiated learning environments, thereby meeting the individual learning needs of students; in spurring growth in academic achievement and student engagement; and in creating a “school without walls,” connected with other schools, resources, and students around the world.
  • To bring down the cost of day school education. It is still too early to demonstrate cost savings results. We are currently developing , and plan to publish, case studies of day schools deeply engaged in blended learning that will hope will elucidate the progress that is being made.

AVI CHAI’s next steps include work in: continued professional development, the development of excellent Jewish Studies programs, and reaching a better understanding of evidence-based practices for online/blended learning.

The webinar concluded with a recommendation to consider: What are YOUR next steps?

Watch the full webinar recording at: http://avichai.org/webinars