Blended Learning Program

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Aim and Purpose of the Program?

First and foremost, the aim of the project is to improve student-learning outcomes.

Offering students a blended learning experience across three schools will not only extend student access to resources, teachers across the schools and students across the schools, but will also support students enrolled in small class sizes more learning opportunities with peers. In other words, where the schools may have been restricted in the past, now some of these barriers can be broken down. The increased access to other students and teachers is a big plus in this project.

The project is also addressing key changes in education. In particular, while blended, or hybrid models of learning are nothing new in the university sector, increasingly, they are becoming priorities for schools as a means to extend learning experiences and outcomes beyond traditional timetable and bricks and mortar structures that exist within schools. The aims of this project reflect this, as for example, the learning aims are to deliver the following learning experiences:

o Diversity in learning experiences, including learning activities, instructional approaches and collaborative interactions with both peers and teachers

o Excitement and engagement generated a blended approach and related technologies

o A love of learning fostered by a growth in confidence in oneself as a learner

o Flexibility:
autonomous learning
anywhere, anytime learning
self-paced learning
where appropriate
self directed and responsible learning: what is learnt, when learning occurs and flexibility to move beyond curriculum requirements
24 hour access to learning
time management

o Meaningful team tasks

o Active rather than passive learning:
developing questions and inquiry points
bringing own resources and ideas to class
contributing to discussions

o Dynamic learning:
learning that differs from previous school experiences
differentiated learning
personalised learning directed at students’ level / point of need
students challenged to learn new skills and behaviours
multiple learning pathways
a combination of workshops, tutorials and formal instruction

o Risk taking

o Emphasis on collaboration with a range of students and teachers

o Peer to peer learning – formal and informal

o Mastering new technological applications to use in the learning

It is important to note, that an individual teacher’s ability to achieve key educational outcomes such as differentiated and personalised learning can be difficult to achieve most effectively in a face-to-face environment which is restricted by time, place and predetermined sets of students. A combination of face-to-face and online experiences can enhance the learning environment, in particular, in relation to differentiated and personalised learning.

Another key aim of the project is to support teachers to develop their practice so that they can best deliver learning, whether it be face-to-face or online.

We have engaged the services of Sylvia Guidara of Digimuve to work with teaching staff in the development of this framework.

Why is blended learning considered best practice moving forward?

In any blended model, best practice is determined by the specific needs of the school, students, parents and teachers. All three schools when developing the hybrid model have carefully considered these factors. In particular, best practice in blended teaching is to think carefully about what can be best done online, and what can be best done face-to-face. This has been important in this project and the school has spent a lot of time and energy exploring this during professional learning sessions. In turn, this is reflected in the learning model, as we see a focus on individual support, personalisation, increased teacher facilitation and hands-on learning in face-to-face environments and increased flexibility in the way students receive direct instruction, learning activities, etc in the online environment.

This project has been established in conjunction with Independent Schools Victoria through funding grants into ‘Improving Digital Learning Pedagogy and Curriculum Design.’
Under the Schools Assistance Act 2008, Independent Schools Victoria provide specialist advice and assistance to Victorian Independent schools to improve the educational outcomes for students through the Australian Government Quality Teacher Program (AGQTP). 

The Australian Government Quality Teacher Program (AGQTP) aims to:
equip teachers with the skills and knowledge needed for teaching in the 21st century 
provide national leadership in high priority areas of teacher professional needs 
improve the professional practice of teachers and school leaders
look beyond integrating technology and ways of moving towards re-imagining learning

Further to this Billanook College, as an accredited Learning Hub School through the AITSL ‘Learning Frontiers’ initiative is using this as an opportunity to increase students’ engagement in learning, for instance by extending learning environments and opportunities beyond the classroom, and for connecting in-school learning with the outside ‘real world,’ of students’ lives.

More information about the Learning Frontiers Initiative can be seen below.

What will the program look like for students?

All of the proposed Blended Learning Unit 1 & 2 subjects for 2015 (Biology, Business Management, Physics and Indonesian) align to and meet the prescribed assessment and content requirements mandated by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA).

The proposed model is one that will provide students with 60% Face 2 Face (F2F) learning experiences and 40% Blended Learning opportunities. This figure is fluid however and may change depending on the specific topics and areas of study that are being covered at any point in time.

Over a two week period this may take shape as 4 lessons F2F and 3 lessons that are blended. Students will be given advance notice by their class teachers as to the composition of F2F and blended lessons and where they will occur in the timetable.

Examples of Face 2 Face Activities will include:

- Traditional Classroom Methodology and Pedagogy
- Direct Instruction
- Group Discussion
- Practical Tasks
- School Assessed Coursework

During the prescribed Blended Learning Lessons, students will firstly check in with their Classroom Teacher at the beginning of the lesson either in person or online as to their location within the school. Students will have the option to work in a range of different locations including the subject classroom, the Carolyn Stone Centre, the College Library, the Senior School Centre Space, the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre or the soon to be completed Middle School Discovery Centre. 

Students have the option to work independently or collaboratively in small groups. Students will have a checklist and structured program of work to follow, yet allowing consolidation, exploration and investigation to take place.

Students are also part of the wider Blended Learning Initiative cohort with online access to staff and students of the participating Uniting Church Schools.

It is also an expectation of the program that students will be provided with regular one on one coaching, mentoring and feedback sessions with the classroom teacher.

Examples of Blended Activities Include:

- Online Modules
- Videos & Tutorials
- Online Collaboration
- Group Discussion
- Independent Learning
- Online Tests & Quizzes
- One on One Coaching, Mentoring & Feedback
- Consolidation of Face 2 Face Content and Lessons
- Self Exploration

What are the Expected Benefits of the Program?

Expected benefits include:

developing knowledge and skills in successful contemporary pedagogies to better meet the needs of students
promoting and enhancing student engagement
developing knowledge and skills within and across subject-specific domains such as ICT and e-learning
providing learning experiences that are personalised and promote different modes of learning
developing 21st Century Skills such as independence, organisation, collaboration, communication, resilience, digital capability and investigation

How will the College assess the outcomes of the program? 
As part of the development of a Blended Learning Framework, tools to assess key project outcomes will be integrated. These will include analysis of student results, completion of set tasks, attendance and student movement, staff and student engagement surveys and teacher observations. Comparisons of data with participating schools will also be shared. Communication of such data will be made available and shared throughout the College Community via means such as Parent/Teacher/Student Conferences, Staff, Faculty and Team Meetings, Newsletter Articles, Information Evenings and Video Logs.

How does this differ to blended learning opportunities provided in the Middle School Curriculum?

This is seen as an extension of the current work that has taken place within the Middle Years and therefore a natural progression for our students.

How will student performance be monitored to ensure equal or better learning outcomes?

We see this as an opportunity to enhance the learning experience in VCE. This project is designed to develop students’ ability to be proactive and not passive in their senior years of learning. These skills are especially vital when preparing for externally examined Unit 3 and 4 subjects, as well as for life beyond secondary school including tertiary and industry based pursuits. 

Again, the basis of the learning model is facilitated, not self-directed. In addition, given that teachers will have more flexibility in the timetable and during face-to-face sessions, there will be an increase in student support.

We believe that the proposed model and approach will in fact provide more opportunities for one-on-one coaching, mentoring and feedback between teacher and student. Student results will be monitored closely through completion of the prescribed coursework and level of performance in school-assessed coursework.

It must also be noted that participating teachers are currently undertaking extensive professional development to ensure that students receive the best learning outcomes. As a result of this project, teacher practice should be improved.  As part of this project, teachers have to examine their curriculum, methodology and instructional design and be challenged to develop and improve it.

Is Participation in the Program Voluntary?

Participation is mandatory if a student chooses to enrol in any of the aforementioned subjects.

More Information
For more information about the Billanook, Cornish & Kingswood Blended Learning Project please feel free to contact 
Mr Matthew Wood, Leader of Learning Innovation