Exploring Online and Blended Learning Options

In the latest Pulse blog post, Middle School Social Studies Teacher, Mrs. Michelle Holcman, shares insight into the benefits of online and blended learning, and valuable online educational resources. Mrs. Holcman currently teaches an online high school course through the Hybrid Learning Consortium (HLC). The HLC brings together independent schools from around the world to provide an online platform for innovative learning.
I first became involved with the HLC one year ago when Upper School Academic Dean, Dan Bronish announced at a faculty meeting that they were going to be offering a fellowship for online teaching. I had not heard of the HLC before, but have had many years of experience in developing curriculum and teaching online courses. I wrote and developed a course, Holocaust Studies for the HLC. The students and I meet once a week, through Zoom, at a designated day and time for at least an hour and hold a class. Classes are recorded so that students may refer back to them if need be. I am always reachable either through Zoom or email throughout the week.
I see the future of education heading in the direction of being at least partially online. Many colleges now offer advanced degrees online; even the University of Florida has created a new program for students to enroll in which they complete 60 credit hours online before being admitted into the “brick and mortar” university. Students in Florida public high schools have to complete at least one class fully online. And the superintendent of Miami Dade County Schools, Alberto Carvalho, has even created his own school, I-Prep, based on the online philosophy. I wanted to get involved with the HLC because I would like to be part of this next movement in education. Either blended courses or fully online courses are what many schools are beginning to offer their students. Miami Country Day can definitely benefit from this trend. Students who are in another country, can still be enrolled in Miami Country Day and partake in online learning. In this scenario, both the student and the school benefit. Online teaching is truly the next step in education.

I also see it as an extension of what we as teachers are already doing in our classroom. For example, I have created curriculum for both World Geography and Civics to teach students. I have created engaging lessons and assessments to make sure my students have learned and understood the material. I have used online discussion pages to have students engage in a discussion outside the classroom with fellow students. Web pages with ancillary movie clips, so as to “flip the classroom,” literature extracts, photos, etc. to keep the students engaged in the topic and to further their interest have also been created.
I believe that high school students can benefit from online courses for many reasons. First, it allows them to participate in a class that perhaps is not offered at their school or does not fit in to their schedule. Second, they are able to learn their subject on a different platform. Third, it does require them to become more responsible for turning in their work and meeting their class during off campus hours. This can be managed through programs such as Play Posit or EduPuzzle, which allow students to watch assigned movies yet are periodically stopped and questions are asked about what they saw. The student may not move forward until the question is answered. Questions are created by the teacher of the course and can be monitored by her/him as well. Finally, it allows them to connect with students and faculty from schools around the world. There are many great ways that the students can hold “online discussions,” through the use of programs like Voice Thread: a program which allows students to listen to a question and then record their answer or feedback to another student’s post. There are also programs that allow for the “written” discussion as well.

Miami Country Day students currently have the option of adding a HLC class to their Upper School curriculum. For more information on the Upper School and the curriculum options, please click here.
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