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College and Career Readiness through Blended Learning

- Authored by: Eileen Wedegartner

Collaboration with B.M.C. Durfee High School, Bridgewater State University and JFYNetWorks

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

In 2018-19, Bridgewater State University, BMC Durfee High School and JFY piloted a dual enrollment collaboration. The pilot offered much encouragement and many lessons. Here are some general observations, followed by specific recommendations.

All students, especially those who may be the first in their family to attend college, need support navigating the shifts in academic rigor, independent learning strategies, time management, different technologies, and other aspects of college.

Knowing where students stand in basic academic skills is important. GPA and course work are good indicators. Standardized exam scores are useful supplements. Accuplacer can help determine how much supplemental support a student will need.

A formal early college orientation should be developed. It could begin by going over a course syllabus in detail, an essential bridge for students to cross in navigating the shift between high school and college expectations. In high school classes, the teacher may have a course outline with expectations that she reviews with students and with parents on parents’ night. This is not the case in college. Students get a syllabus. The professor may or may not go over it in detail, noting texts, technology, assignments, deadlines, tests, the need to build a schedule and manage time and access to academic resources, etc.

Early College Orientation Components

  1. Initial assessment of reading and/or math skills using Accuplacer, not to exclude students but to determine needed support.
  2. Detailed examination of syllabus, highlighting and noting information that is essential for developing independent learning strategies.
      1. Highlight the grading policy. Understanding how you are graded allows students to continually self-track their progress.
      2. Highlight attendance policies. Review the importance of letting the teacher know when you will not be there. Contacting professors before the absence ensures that the professor knows you are aware of the course expectations, and that you respect her time. This is also an essential skill in the workplace.
      3. Highlight the professor’s office hours and make a point to stop in during those office hours at the beginning of a semester. This is a practice that helps students learn to advocate for themselves in college. It is also a useful practice on the job.
      4. Highlight all major assignments and test dates. Show students how to put dates into a calendar or planner that can be accessed via computer or iPhone. This helps students develop a schedule that they are responsible for with notifications.

  1. After syllabus review, work with students on contacting professors to introduce themselves via email.
  2. Practice class expectations.
      1. In college classes, professors often lecture or hold a seminar, but there are no ongoing formative assessments like homework checks or classwork to track learning. Students are expected to do classwork on their own time outside of class and be responsible for their own learning by independently pursuing inquiry before the next class session.
      2. In math, students practice problems and come to class with questions if they did not get the right answer. They need to learn to come to class with questions on topics they need help with, taking responsibility for their own progress.
      3. In humanities classes, there is a jump from high school classes where teachers guide students in formulating a thesis through classroom discussion, guided reading questions and close readings. In college, students are expected to formulate a thesis independently. They are expected to identify passages for close reading on their own and practice critical reading skills and methods outside of class. Demonstrating and practicing these skills before classes begin will make the transition easier.

  1. Practice note-taking methods and skills. These techniques are critical tools for success.
  2. Have students explore campus support resources such as the Academic Achievement Center at BSU or similar services at other campuses. Though our dual enrollment classes are in the high school, we may be able to access these support services online or through campus visits. Helping students practice getting support is an important part of college readiness. Click here to link to the BSU Academic Achievement Center. We should plan one or more campus visits with specific objectives such as student support services. Familiarity with the campus and its resources will encourage matriculation.
  3. Practice logging into the platform the college uses for classes. At BSU this is Blackboard. Other colleges use other platforms.
      1. Help students download and upload material for a course.
      2. Ensure that students have access to content.

  1. Practice using the technology they will need for the class. This would include using Google sheets to create documents with math and creating charts and graphs for projects.
  2. Practice using the word processing programs or transferring documents across different programs to learn to transition easily between programs.

Not Just Early College, Ongoing Support

Ongoing Support During the Semester

  1. Meet with students in weekly sessions.
  2. Share updates from college professors, such as changes to the syllabus.
  3. Target students who struggle through check-ins and academic support interventions.
  4. Provide opportunities for students to work on programs with access to computers and materials for both independent and study- group work.
  5. Develop protocols with professors to keep track of students’ standing in class and flag problems early. (This is backup for student self-management.)
  6. Work with students to track their own progress, so they can map their route to success.
  7. Show students how to access the MLA manual or APA manual, depending on course.
  8. Access online library sources from the college. Give students time to do necessary research.

In general, a three-credit college class runs approximately 38 hours of class time during a semester. A high school class for course credit runs about 50 minutes a day for 180 days (or 100 minutes for 90 days), a total of 150 hours. This means that structured class time is four times higher for the high school student. To support these students as they transition from one realm to the other requires reinforcing skills that will help them succeed when structured learning time is reduced. Our job is to ensure that they develop the skills they need to work effectively in this new structure, beginning with managing their time but including becoming aware of their own gaps and working to fill them through self-advocacy.

Picture credits: B.M.C. Durfee High School twitter and Facebook pages, as well as

Related post about this dual enrollment pilot program found here.

Learn more about JFY’s Early College program here.

Early College Reduces Inequity

A Promising Pathway to College and Careers

Bridgewater State University, B.M.C. Durfee High School and JFY’s New Partnership

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

The college admissions scandal that broke in March kept unfolding through the weeks and months like an origami of shame, exposing story after sordid story of gross inequity in the college admissions process.

As the national networks uncoiled twisted tales of bribery and deception that famous parents of means had braided to get their kids into elite colleges, local news stations were swarmed by flocks of ordinary people calling in anonymously to admit that they had written their children’s essays for them.

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It goes beyond quantitative data points

Measuring “college readiness” is quite the conundrum. Some say it is about test scores, class rank, SAT and GPA. But I think it goes beyond those quantitative data points. While they are all important indicators of skill, there are other measures that cannot be captured in scores but are inherent in “readiness.” These qualities or capacities include executive function, time management in general, prioritizing work and planning for due dates.

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The teachers’ job

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The job of the English teacher is to ensure that students can read a complex text with comprehension and formulate ideas about it orally and in writing. Teachers often walk a fine line between imparting their own views and facilitating an environment where students can formulate their own judgements based on their own knowledge, values, ethics and beliefs.

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WGBH, one of our Boston NPR stations, recently ran a three-part series titled, “Teaching the Future: Climate Change Education on Cape Cod.” The series explores the challenges for teachers who are trying to teach about climate change when they have not had deep training on the subject.


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I started teaching in 1998. My first year I filled in for a teacher in a Boston exurb. The school was my alma mater, so English department staff took me under their wings to help me do the best one could hope for a first-year teacher. They gave me lesson plans, coached me on practice and helped me develop some good curriculum. By all measures, I had a great year in my first year of teaching.

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I recently had a conversation with one of the teachers I work with about a course she is teaching this year. The content is intriguing, relevant and full of rigor. It has to do with social media, networking, media bias, and how we humans are adapting to these rapid changes. It is a course I would have been dying to get into in high school or college.

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On July 5, 2018, Thomas Birmingham and William Weld co-authored an opinion piece in the Boston Globe titled, “Mass. has to return to its high standards for education.” The former governor and senate president re-visited the 1993 Education Reform Act on its 25th anniversary, praising its successes and making an argument to raise the ante and not relax the push for high standards that has brought Massachusetts success in education.

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

I fondly recall a ragged rhyme that kids used to chant on the last day of school. Every adult of a certain age knows some version of it, but the one we always bellowed was:

learning new song of summer, Schools not out forever...

Only the most daring or naughty would speak the last word. The rest of us just let it hang in the air as we fled toward the fleet of yellow buses that would ferry us away from the stifling chalk dust-filled confinement of desks and books and droning teachers to the sun-splashed freedom of beach balls, bikes, and the soothing chimes of the ice cream wagon.

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by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

For English Language Learners (ELL), mastering English is the key to success in all subjects. When we teach students who are struggling with math, we must take into account their skill level in English as well. This presents challenges in the blended learning classroom, because in order to benefit from individualized work in math, ELL students often need language support.