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Blended Learning Initiative (BLI)
In the 2020-2021 school year, COVID-19 caused many schools in Colorado to completely shift their instructional models from traditional in-person to remote learning instruction and other types of hybrid models. This shift upended what districts thought of as “normal” instruction for a large number of students. It has been important to step back and reassess what we know, or thought we knew, about “what works” in terms of instruction, seat time/funding requirements and—fundamentally—achieving strong student outcomes. As such, CDE started the Blended Learning Initiative (BLI) for collective conversation across districts, schools, and the state to look at what we’ve learned, how students have been impacted, how education has evolved, and where we go from here.
During the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years, CDE conducted research and facilitated activities to understand more about blended and online learning models that are being used by brick-and-mortar districts and schools both within Colorado and nationwide. Throughout the BLI, CDE engaged district and school leaders, educators, and families including students to provide feedback about blended and online learning. The BLI has welcomed representatives and stakeholders from the online school and program community to contribute to robust policy and best practices discussions. The findings from the BLI have been shared with the Colorado State Board of Education (February and June 2021, February and June 2022, February and April 2023) with anticipation to engage the rulemaking process in 2023.
Blended Learning and Supplemental Online Course Variance Waiver
The BLI has included Colorado districts and schools that are implementing learning models that fall outside of the updated posted guidance related to Blended Learning (BL) and Supplemental Online (SO) Courses. For years 2021-2022, 2022-2023, and/or 2023-2024, the Colorado Department of Education has provided districts and schools the opportunity to request a variance waiver to the posted guidance regarding BL and SO Courses as outlined in the 2023 Student October Count Audit Resource Guide.
An additional year for 2023-2024 will be provided as an opportunity to extend this waiver with more information to come. Participating districts and schools utilizing the variance waiver should contact CDE through the BLI email listed below with questions regarding this process and required deadlines for submitting documentation. Districts and schools should reference the Blended Learning and Supplemental Online Course Variance Waiver Process and the training resources below regarding the formal variance waiver process that takes place annually from October through December:
For the 2023-2024 school year, participating districts and schools must complete both the Initial Variance Waiver Request and Formal Variance Waiver Request. For the Initial Request, notification must be submitted via the survey by August 11, 2023. For the Formal Request, the required forms must be submitted via Syncplicity by December 8, 2023. For further details on and with questions about these request processes, email BLI@cde.state.co.us.
BLI Stakeholder Engagement for 2022-2023
In partnership with the CDE School Finance and Operations Unit and the CDE Schools of Choice Unit, Keystone Policy Center conducted stakeholder engagement outreach activities to educators and families to share perspectives on blended and online learning in Colorado. The goal of this 2022-2023 listening tour was to gather understanding of different forms of instruction as well as insights into what works well, what are the challenges, and what are the opportunities in different forms of instructional delivery.
BLI Stakeholder Engagement Survey
- In August 2022-October 2022, the CDE Blended and Online Learning Summer 2022 Survey launched for Colorado educators, parents/guardians, and students to complete.
BLI Stakeholder Engagement Focus Groups
In October 2022-November 2022, Keystone facilitated focus groups informed in part by the survey results with Colorado superintendents, educators, parents/guardians, and students as well as the Commissioner's Teacher Cabinet.
Keystone Policy Center developed the BLI Stakeholder Engagement Report with data and feedback gathered from these BLI Stakeholder Engagement activities during the December 16, 2022 BLI Reconvening Meeting. The meeting and report materials are below.
BLI Convening Meetings for 2021-2022
In collaboration with CDE School Finance and Operations Unit, the Office of Online and Blended Learning within the CDE Schools of Choice Unit facilitated initial stakeholder engagement with education leaders and stakeholders in Colorado. The goal of these 2021-2022 convenings was to begin the BLI by inviting statewide district and school leaders to discuss research and best practices for online and blended learning. The agenda and presentation meeting materials for each BLI Convening are below.
Convening 1: November 30, 2021
Convening 2: January 28, 2022
Convening 3: February 25, 2022
Convening 4: March 24, 2022
Mallorie Klemm, Blended Learning Education Sr. Consultant