by Eric Goodman, M.Ed.

Teaching Online and Blended Learning StudentsFor the past two years, I have been teaching Spanish to students online at Minnesota Virtual High School (the best online school in MN) and in blended learning classes at MTS Secondary, a “brick-and-mortar” school in Minneapolis. Both are tuition-free, public charters schools and members of the K-12 academic community of Minnesota Transitions Charter School, but the experience of learning full-time online and through blended learning classes (a combination of line and traditional methods for learning) is different.

With MVHS, I work with students all across the state, some urban and some suburban, but at MTS Secondary, my students are from the city of Minneapolis. I wondered, what’s the difference between teaching students working online at home with those working online in a classroom? Will my curriculum need to change?

To begin, both students work in their Spanish class for an average of 50 minutes each day. I learned early on that the best way to teach my blended learning students was not to simply give them access to the same lessons I used with my online students. Here are my top three reasons why I found that to be true:

  1. My blended learning students are used to a lot of interaction in their traditional classes, so I needed to add variety in how I delivered the lessons to keep the students focused. My lessons had to compete with the potential distractions from other students in the room, where as my online students could choose the learning environment that works best for them.
  2. My blended learning students have more opportunities to use and practice their learning because of students present in the class. Because blended learning classrooms combine online and traditional methods, the teacher can build in practice time with students in the classroom. My online students are independent learners and want to avoid the social interactions of a brick-and-mortar schools offers.
  3. Full-time online students are typically committed to the platform, where as my blended learning students are trying it out – some for the first time. What works for my online line students did not always draw in my blended learning students because they were less familiar with the platform.

I discovered that while preparing for my blended learning classes, I improved the overall innovation of my lessons. I plan to increase the interactive lessons in my Virtual classes, and that is a bonus for all my students.

I recently conducted a small experiment where I had a Virtual teacher who knows some basic words in Spanish take a mid-term test from my new course. He scored a 64% on it, and it took him about 15 minutes to complete it. Students in the blended course are scoring an average of 95% and are taking 10 minutes to complete the test. This tells me that students are successful in the course, and they are learning a great deal from the interactive lessons. View an animated tutorial I have used with my students below.