Exceptional Times Call for Exceptional Designs - July 28, 2010
In the fall of 2009, The North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) began discussions with the North Carolina
Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) around the requirement that Occupational Course of Study (OCS) students
would soon need a highly qualified subject matter expert in their exceptional children's classrooms.
The problem was a difficult one in that even though many OCS teachers were certified as exceptional children's
teachers, their certification did not meet the new standard of highly qualified subject matter experts in each classroom.
Enter NCVPS.org. As we began to thought partner around the possibilities of our blended model with NCDPI, a new
blended model emerged - exceptional times call for exceptional designs.
In this model, the face-to-face OCS teacher supports the student's unique needs and co-teams with the NCVPS.org
teacher who is both certified in the unique content area (Algebra I for example) and trained to meet the Individualized
Education Plan (IEP) needs of the student as well.
As Chubb and Moe (2009) assert, "Technology has enormous benefits for the learning process, and it promises to
change the nature of schooling and heighten its productivity. Curricula, teaching methods, and schedules can all be
customized to meet the learning styles and life situations of individual students; education can be freed from the
geographic constraints of districts and brick-and-mortar buildings; coursework from the most remedial to the most
advanced can be made available to everyone".
In our own pursuit to Liberate Learning, we also reviewed the research of Rhim & Kowal (2008), that provided fuel to our
effort. Their research found that cyber/virtual schools that cater to individual student's unique learning needs are
philosophically aligned with the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) and have the potential to open new
educational opportunities to children with disabilities --alongside their peers without disabilities.
In the Rhim and Kowal (2008) work, the following reasons were cited for blended learning appeal: (1). Individualized
program and pacing; (2). Extensive opportunities for parental involvement; (3).Use of technology extension of existing
assistive technology for children with disabilities; (4.) Frequent and immediate feedback; (5). Variety of presentation
formats and personalized instruction; (6). Flexibility of time and space allows families more control over the learning
In order to plan delivery methods that capitalized on the research landscape, NCVPS and NCDPI identified three courses
- Algebra I, Biology, and English II , and a cohort team of experts and instructors to begin the development process. The
development process was led by Michelle Lourcey of NCVPS and Freda Lee of NCDPI.
These two remarkable women defined the vision for blended learning, developed the course masters in
www.blackboard.com, and managed development teams who were responsible for course creation, editing, and
improvements to meet the unique needs of the OCS students.
Parallel to the development process was a statewide Request for Proposals (RFP) whereby school districts had to submit
proposals to be a part of the Fall 2010 pilot programs. Questions they had to respond to included their use and
implementation of virtual services along with the current highlights of their exceptional children's' plan that leveraged
the use of technology. Upon review from membership of both
NCVPS and NCDPI, beta districts were chosen to pilot the first 1,000 students in the exceptional design model for the Fall
So what do the courses look like? Engagement is the key. NCVPS knows the power of course design that provides
multiple ways for students to interact with content - through reading it, hearing it, and viewing it. Content was designed
to allow the students to pre-assess first on the module's objectives in order for both co-teachers to have a snapshot of
the student's knowledge base.
Then students engage the module's content through a variety of mediums. Student practice, both with their face-to-
face teacher and their online teacher, and when ready, they complete assignments to show their mastery understanding
of the content. Students demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways, from www.discovery.com, www.wimba.com,
learning objects, authentic assessments, wikis, blogs, alternative rubrics, and performance based projects to
The OCS students are truly in win/win environment in this model; they have the teaching and support of their face-to-
face teacher to guide instruction and the expertise of their online teacher to differentiate and individualize their learning
path. Through this blended learning environment, both teachers work together to create and a deliver instruction that
addresses daily how the student is learning, what the student is learning, and what needs to happen to ensure true
learning is taking place.
Currently, NCVPS and NCDPI are evaluating next steps for course development and moving towards opening the
program to all schools in North Carolina. We will publish and share results and findings for our pilot process within the
next few months as well as information about how you can reach out to us for consultation at www.ncvps.org. A kickoff
manual of "how to do the work" is coverfed in the blended model. Audiences who wish to review this article can access
it here: http://sites.google.com/site/ncvpsgolive/ocs-blended-training
Both the exceptional children's division at NCDPI and the curriculum instruction division at NCVPS believe that all
children can learn online. We realize students will have log in issues, parents will need support, and co-teaching
strategies will undergo a paradigm shift with this exceptional model; however, we will fail forward together and
continue to eat learning barriers for breakfast at www.ncvps.org to make it work on behalf of students.
Dr. Bryan Setser - Executive Director
www.ncvps.org - A World Class Blended Learning Organization
Follow Dr. Setser:
on the web - www.thevlc.org
@BryanSetser on twitter.com
@NCVPS on facebook.com
or email at firstname.lastname@example.org