What many school districts have already discovered and what many more have yet to learn is that by partnering with neighboring districts that have already implemented blended learning programs, schools can reap huge rewards. When it comes to funding, implementation, and professional development, cross-district collaboration with other districts, big or small, may hold more answers than you realize. And having these answers can be invaluable to starting a successful blended learning program in your own district.
Discover new routes to funding through cross-district collaboration.
Chances are school districts that have already implemented blended learning programs didn’t have the funding or the budget just handed to them. Many districts have come up with some very creative ways of earning additional funding and cutting expenses, some of which you may be able to implement in your own district. Examining a partner district’s feedback on the advantages and disadvantages of various vendors and how that district’s academic goals have influenced its choices will provide good insights and a great starting point for your own research. Cross-district collaboration in some school districts has even resulted in districts combining purchasing power and leveraging the cost-cutting advantages of economies of scale for tablet devices or other equipment.
Partner school districts can serve as models for implementation.
Blended learning programs are just as unique as the students they serve, and you’d be hard pressed to find two that are exactly alike. The true advantage of blended learning environments is that the models for implementation are so flexible, they can be tailored to meet almost any need. The disadvantage is that the open vista of possibilities is so wide, a district’s ambitions can very quickly overleap its resources. It’s always better to start small, iron out the kinks, and then grow and expand from there. Through cross-district collaboration, you can gain access to high-performing models that can be observed and replicated. You can learn how to pace the growth and the expansion of your blended learning program in a way that makes sense for your district. You may also discover innovative ways to implement blended learning to serve other district needs that you might not have considered.
Explore opportunities for professional development through cross-district collaboration.
How to provide teachers with the necessary professional development to work within a blended environment is always a question for districts that are just making the transition to blended learning. It’s not uncommon for partner school districts to engage in teacher swapping, giving educators more opportunities to learn from each other through observation and build on successful practices. It’s also a good way for districts to build broader forums for exchanging ideas or sharing and solving problems. This kind of cross-district collaboration with districts that are already using blended learning in the classroom allows teachers to see what those models look like first-hand, which can then aid them in deciding which strategies to use in their own blended environments.
When school districts work together, everyone wins.
Cross-district collaboration isn’t a one-way street, and it doesn’t have to end once you’ve gotten your blended learning program off the ground. Technology is fast changing the education landscape, so school districts will always have more to learn from each other. And when you foster a culture of partnership, community, collaboration, and teamwork at the highest levels, those values and benefits can trickle down to the very roots of every school and district: the classroom.