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Blended Learning offers options for students

-  The Blended Learning Center is a hub for online curriculum, offering students flexibility in education


It is a well-known fact that everyone learns in his or her own way, and the Oregon Trail School District is offering an alternative that takes full advantage of today’s most thriving technology: the Internet.

The district’s Blended Learning Center offers online classes for students whose needs aren’t being met at their school. At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, the center’s staff is holding an open house for students and their parents to get questions answered and see progress.

The Blended Learning Center is open Monday-Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., but because of the 100 percent Web-based Odessey Ware curriculum, students can access their work anytime, anywhere, as long as they have Internet connection.

The Blended Learning Center is available for students in grades six through 12. The center is closely related to the high school, so students can either be full-time or part-time with classes supplemental to the high school. Debbie Johnson, the center’s director, said this offers lots of flexibility for families.

For example, students whose families travel for work may move away for several weeks. Instead of having to change schools during that time, Blended Learning offers them the option to take their classes with them.

“In this day and age, we need to be offering online classes for kids,” Johnson said. “We need to expand the way we educate kids, and give them options.”

Blended Learning serves about 230 students. Some of the students use the center because they want to graduate early, while others are there because a traditional classroom setting doesn’t work for them.

While teachers do not actually teach the classes, the center employs two licensed teachers to be there to grade students’ work and be a resource if needed. Mike Klausman handles math and science, and Tracy Wells is in charge of language arts and social studies.

“We love it,” Wells said. “It’s a popular program.”

Since the students make their own schedule, some days the teachers’ jobs are more busy than others. “Some days kids can’t find an open computer, other days there are tons,” Klausman said.

The curriculum offers 125 different classes: a mix of core and electives. Johnson said some students choose to take their core classes online, and then venture back to the high school for their elective classes.

Since Blended Learning is very nearly a part of Sandy High School, the program has no cost to students or their parents. The exceptions come when students are looking at summer school programs when they have fallen behind.

For some students it’s a great fit, Johnson said, and for others it’s a bit harder. But she sees the value in learning to benefit from online classes.

“How many of us take online webinars at work? And when they hit college they’re going to be seeing more online classes,” she said.

The Blended Learning Center also employs a counselor to help students.