Apr 122016
 
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TU blended learning studyTorah U’Mesorah, the national organization of Hebrew Day Schools, had a question: Could the option of online and/or blended learning solve some of the challenges facing Jewish schools?

  • Could it help small, out-of-town schools offer a more enriched secular studies program without busting the budget?
  • Could it provide an economically feasible way to offer the differentiated learning that would put academic achievement in reach for weaker students?
  • Could it help financially strapped schools across the nation control their expenses without cutting back their offerings?

With funding from The AVI CHAI Foundation, Torah U’Mesorah set out on a two-year pilot project involving 13 diverse Jewish schools across the country. They ran the gamut from co-ed day schools to yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs; from major Jewish population areas to smaller enclaves; from elementary schools to high schools.

A study conducted about the pilot revealed the wide range of variables that influence the answers to the questions above. Overall, it found that the digital format works best with the strongest students. They were able to get the AP courses, electives, SAT review and advanced-level courses that small, privately funded schools often cannot offer. They were also able to more easily navigate the learning programs.

Some schools had great success upping their reading scores, as the digital format gave teachers feedback that pinpointed students’ weaknesses. Teachers could then focus on helping those students while the rest of the class moved forward with their program. There were many other learning benefits as well.

Another piece of important information that emerged was that students still need their teachers. Programs that blended digital with traditional classroom teaching were often more successful than those that relied on the computer alone. Therefore, the savings that schools could expect in payroll expenses might be somewhat limited, unless schools are ready to reconsider student/teacher ratios.

As you would expect in a pilot, schools reported mixed reviews and mixed results, but all see a future for digital/blended learning in their classrooms.

You can learn from the experiences of the 13 yeshivos and Bais Yaakov schools that participated in this pilot in a report available here.