School operational design determines the leadership's capacity to economically and logistically accomplish the mission. This is especially true for those schools that pursue more advanced instructional strategies like blended learning. Incorporating technology such a personalized approach lets teachers get back to why they got into the teaching profession in the first place: to see the lights come on by providing a spark of inspiration. Blended, personalized learning should allow the teachers to focus more on each student, freeing them up to be the architects of the learning experience in the classroom. The 9 areas of school Operations design are outlined below.
Network Reliability - If you have technology in place that slows down with a heavy load of simultaneous access your teachers are going to get frustrated. Address the network infrastructure early and often, making sure your learning platform is ready to handle blended implementation. Issues include bandwidth from the ISP and within the campus, wireless access points, network segmentation.
Data Access- Is the generated data seamlessly accessible for analysis and decision making? How will data from different systems be consolidated in order to make it useful for personalizing instruction, administrative support, and operational improvement? Will the online curriculum content and evaluation systems share data? How will data be incorporated into report cards, transcripts, and other required formats?
Human Resource Design
Human Resources is critical to blended learning, including recruiting the right people, training and resources for current faculty and staff, and processes for coaching and development. Compliance and recordkeeping are important parts of HR, but emphasis should be placed on building the school's pool of talent, providing the right on-boarding process, training, professional development, etc. HR is an underdeveloped capacity in too many schools and this weakness will become more apparent when attempting more advanced growth strategies.
The enrollment process is the life blood for every school because it is usually the primary source of funding. Regardless of whether this includes screening applicants, a well designed and implemented enrollment strategy will impact all other decisions for school design. How will the blended, personalized learning concept be explained to parents and students? Will pre-assessment be used for placing students in the most appropriate classroom(s)? When will students receive training on using the technology resources and understanding how to progress through the curriculum? What learning support services will be provided to students?
We've seen some schools boldly feature blended learning in their marketing, while others have taken a more subtle branding approach because of misconceptions among parents about the benefits and advantages of a technology-enabled classroom.
“Wait a minute - you think I’m going to send my kid to your school to sit there while the computer teaches them? No way!”
Most parents have never seen nor experienced this kind of classroom, so creating a conversation in your community about the methods, goals and results will build engagement and help you attract the students and faculty that you want applying to your school.
Growing schools tend to be exceptionally good at communicating the key differentiators, or what’s called the value proposition. This term is foreign to many educators, but it’s part of developing an Innovation Culture and Plan in your school. Clearly define your target market, market segmentation, how you’re building relationships, your value proposition, your key activities, resources and partners--that is the vocabulary of innovative school leadership.
The facilities team makes a big contribution to blended learning implementation, providing the support that faculty and administrators need to learn, adapt, and improve. For example, what furniture and equipment adjustments can be made to enhance the learning experience? Circles are used more than rows in a blended classroom, so how can the facilities team listen to teachers needs and design better solutions?
Students, parents, teachers, staff, board, community leaders, donors, administrators--all of the stakeholders in your school ecosystem want to be connected with the school. Be deliberate in engaging all of your stakeholders in your instructional strategy. This will be important for their support of your plan, and especially for word-of-mouth marketing that is a such powerful part of driving enrollment. How can you be more intentional about communicating with and engaging your stakeholders? Who should own this part of your leadership strategy?
Having the financial resources in place is, of course, a major factor. You can’t have vision without provision! Administrators and teachers need support with accurate budget data, year-to-date performance, and effective cash flow management. The finance team is a vital enabler for delivering an outstanding experience for the adults and children in the school building.
Vendor relationships are important to every school, but even more so when implementing blended learning. Building win-win relationships will be important because you will inevitably run into barriers with systems that will require a collaborative effort to solve. This involves negotiating the appropriate levels of pricing and support, as well as establishing lines of communication.
Pay careful attention to your processes and systems for providing support to your faculty, administrators and students to ensure they know how to use emerging technology and curriculum tools. Again, the goal is a stellar experience in personalized learning in the classroom, so figure out how to deliver on your promises in a way that produces raving fans among faculty and students.