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December 5, 2013

WBHS pilots hybrid classes for winter semester

By Cari DeLamielleure-Scott
C & G Staff Writer

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Mervet Nafso Ismail, Advanced Placement chemistry instructor at West Bloomfield High School, teaches students in a traditional classroom setting. Come second semester, the students will combine online learning with face-to-face lessons.

WEST BLOOMFIELD — At the West Bloomfield School District Board of Education meeting Nov. 25, the board voted 6-0 for West Bloomfield High School to pilot a hybrid class program, blending face-to-face learning and online coursework, in the winter semester of the 2013-14 school year.

Alesia Flye, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, explained that the program gives students flexibility and ownership of their coursework, as well as flexibility as learners. Hybrid courses provide diverse learning options for students with rigorous coursework and are another way the school potentially is diversifying the experience of the students, she said. 

Current legislation regarding educational techniques allows for the expansion of online options, and Assistant Principals Mara Hoffert and Art Ebert researched beneficial online opportunities for the students to create a program that is the best of both worlds. The National Education Department states that hybrid programs are more effective when online coursework is combined with face-to-face learning, Hoffert said.

“What online means is very different for each teacher. For some teachers, it could be that they show them (students) different online resources. It could be online threads; it could be video. There’s just a number of different resources and platforms that we’re going to be using,” Hoffert said.

The pilot program will begin at the end of January with four selected Advanced Placement classes and a general world literature class, and while students have the option to work online during the first-second or sixth-seventh period blocks, they can also choose to attend class in lieu of working online.

“Each of our instructors is going to craft their class differently,” Hoffert said. “One thing that will be in common is that students are going to meet with teachers Mondays in class — face-to-face — and after that, depending on what’s going on in class. ... If it’s something that can be done online or on flexible time, they may do that.”

Though the curriculum, class size, books and teachers will remain consistent, Hoffert said there is a benefit to having a decreased number of students in the classroom, as it allows teachers to focus on those who may need one-on-one assistance. A second perk to the program is that it prepares students for online courses, which they will experience in post-secondary school, Ebert said.

Because teachers will closely monitor students participating online, if they feel a student needs to be in the classroom, that student may be pulled back to the traditional learning atmosphere, Ebert said. Parents can also decide if they feel face-to-face learning is needed for their children.

The school district will provide Google accounts to students in the selected classes, allowing them to access Google Docs, forums, websites, assessments and presentations, and to collaborate with each other through the program. Teachers will also be able to monitor when students log in and who participates in group presentations.

“I think that one of the most positive things about the entire program is the flexibility that goes with doing something of a hybrid course,” said Mervet Nafso Ismail, Advanced Placement chemistry and honors chemistry instructor. “I think there are a good number of students that could go above and beyond, and with the use of the Internet now, to me, I think there’s a limitless amount of information out there that the students can gather, and for those students that are able to take that one step further, I think that this is going to be a great program.”

So the question is if students are ready for the accountability with online courses in high school, she added.

Nafso Ismail said that after announcing the program to her students, there was a lot of excitement but also anxiety. Though she is still working on crafting her hybrid plan, the labs, quizzes and tests will take place in her classroom. Nafso Ismail stressed to her students that even if they participate online, she will always be in the classroom for face-to-face instruction.

“I think that one of the big things that parents, students and maybe even the community would be worried about is the accountability piece of it,” she said. “That is a difficult thing, as we move into this whole online platform, that people are seeing.”

In the past, Hoffert said that students have attempted online courses; however, because of a lack of structure and assistance, they have struggled. With the program they have designed, Hoffert and Ebert feel that there will be a safety net for the students.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Cari DeLamielleure-Scott at cdelamielleure@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1093.