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Blended learning could save school districts money

Although many school districts are embracing blended learning as a means of better preparing students for the careers of the 21st century, there may also be an additional perk: It can save schools money.

The blended method of teaching is designed to give students an opportunity for personalized learning on a day-to-day basis. Educators combine in-classroom instruction with online programs so they have the time and resources to give individual attention to students and help them learn at a pace that will allow them to be successful.

In Scranton, Pennsylvania, school administrators plan to tailor curricula to a blended learning program to compete with the growing number of online charter schools and adapt to students' varied learning styles.

"Public schools have never needed to be competitive," William King, superintendent of the Scranton School District, told The Scranton Times-Tribune. "Now we're looking at rebranding ourselves.

According to the source, the new program would cost the district approximately $800 per student, which is much less than the district loses when students decide to attend cyber charters rather than public schools.

Although there may be initial one-time costs involved when instituting a blended learning program because it requires technology, in the long run schools can save money by cutting back on expensive supplies like paper, pencils and printed textbooks.

Schools will need to ensure that they have the proper bandwidth and wireless or wired connectivity, which they will likely have to upgrade in any case if they are located in one of the 45 states implementing the Common core state standards.

Additional expenses may include furniture, which schools will need to purchase if they plan to redesign classrooms to mirror the more flexible and adaptive learning model, and technological devices that will improve students' learning experiences.

According to Education Elements, schools can still save money in the process by reallocating existing spending. For example, if schools have software licensing agreements that are under-utilized, they can terminate those agreements in favor of adopting software that will assist their curriculum changes.

Schools can also consolidate and coordinate computer access to ensure that devices do not sit idle during the day, and may want to consider reallocating funding from print textbooks to digital content as they work to develop 21st century skills in their students.

All these tools can not only be used to save districts money, but can also personalize learning for students and help them be successful.

"It's exciting," King told The Scranton Times-Tribune. "We're creating multiple pathways to a diploma for our kids."

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