The Promise and Practice of Blended Learning

January 18, 2017

In his 2008 book, Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, Clayton Christensen lays out a compelling case for scrapping education as we’ve known it, identifying antiquated practices created for a society that no longer exists and acknowledging that today’s students (and more and more their teachers and parents) simply are not wired to learn sitting passively for hours each day. He and his co-authors argue that technology has the potential to completely transform education—to disrupt it—to make it individualized, adaptable, self-paced and self-directed. They envision a world where age and grade matter less than achievement; where students don’t have to wait for their peers to catch up or fail when they need more time.

Such a logical argument has indeed resulted in many online schools. So-called “cyber schools” are run by traditional local districts, and national organizations who have charters in Michigan and elsewhere. Success in these schools has been limited, as they often simply recreate a traditional instructional model, just done remotely. Furthermore, most students need and like interaction with peers and teachers.

The newest partners in the CS Partners family of schools, Nexus Academies of Grand Rapids and Lansing, recognized that one-size-fits-all educational choices leave behind far too many kids.

The Nexus Academies opened in 2012 with a unique blended learning model where students are on campus 16 hours a week (mornings or afternoons, 4 days a week) and are guided and counseled by success coaches who act as tutors, counselors, and guides—helping students map out work plans for their online work, and filling in holes where necessary. Students also take classes on campus—for as long as they need them—to earn credit, demonstrate mastery, get more support or pursue an interest. Off campus, students work online completing required course work.

Students at the High Schools enjoy open space schools with technology in use in every nook and cranny. They even have robots! All students are issued a laptop and have 24/7 access to their course work and a dashboard that monitors their progress and keeps work due in front of them in an organized fashion. In addition to face-to-face time with coaches and teachers, students can easily email them with questions.

At CS Partners we are excited to work with the dynamic leadership teams and boards at these schools to bring great choices to the many students for whom the traditional model hasn’t worked. Nexus Academy will be transitioning to a new name and brand this summer, NexTech High School.

Written by: Laura Moellering, Director of School Leadership at CS Partners