The Bay Area BlendEd Consortium was founded by The Athenian School, The College Preparatory School, Lick-Wilmerding High School, Marin Academy, and The Urban School in order to jointly offer a set of blended classes combining face-to-face and online instruction. Our Consortium started to take shape back in 2012-2013 and grew out of a series of questions that the heads of its five member schools shared:
Given the increasing influence of digital technology, how might we combine demonstrated best practices for online learning with our proven strengths in direct classroom instruction and experiential learning? Could a local consortium leverage the educational assets of its region in distinct and beneficial ways? Can we help students reach beyond the confines of our schools while preserving the core relational culture that lies at the heart of our schools’ educational missions?
We first addressed these questions by agreeing to some shared philosophical and design principles. Courses would be developed and taught by our own instructors, and would be recognized on each school’s transcript as full-credit offerings. They would be rigorous, requiring students to work independently and collaboratively and to take responsibility for their progress. Each course would include 3 to 5 face‐to‐face meetings and, where appropriate, take advantage of the unique learning resources of the Bay Area.
Now in our third year of offering blended electives, we continue to navigate myriad anticipated and unanticipated challenges. How do we best promote these classes to our students and families? What protocols are needed regarding the sharing of student information? How should schools cover expenses for course-specific costs? As each new issue arises, we are mindful of our desire to recognize the diverse practices and cultures of our member schools while also providing standardization where necessary to support the student experience.
Building on our successes and lessons learned in the extraordinary laboratory of our Consortium, we face the next level of strategic decisions around our vision for growth and future organizational structure. Now, with the generous support of the EE Ford Foundation, we intend to pursue critical work in the following three areas:
Strengthening the Existing Program
Developing the Consortium as a Sustainable Organization
Capturing and Sharing our Learning