Planning for Blended or Remote Learning
Planning for Blended or Remote Learning
Blended and Remote Learning Comparison
The Ohio Department of Education knows that schools and districts are working hard this summer to prepare for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Schools also are thinking carefully about how to reopen safely for the fall in the midst of ongoing concerns over COVID-19. As such, the Department has received a significant amount of interest in remote learning approaches (including blended learning approaches) and the compliance requirements for using such approaches. This page is intended to provide information and support a better understanding of the need for either a remote learning plan, specified in Section 16 of House Bill 164 of the 133rd General Assembly, or a blended learning declaration required by Ohio Revised Code section 3302.41.
(NOTE: Nothing in this document applies to Internet/computer-based community schools.1 Also, this document only applies to non-public schools to the extent that such schools may utilize the blended learning declaration requirement. Non-public schools are not included in the remote learning provisions of H.B. 164. Non-public schools may choose, however, to voluntarily develop remote learning plans.)
Site-Based or School-Based Learning: Site-based or school-based learning takes place in a school building and is supervised by appropriate educational staff employed by the school or district.
Remote Learning: Remote learning occurs when the learner and educator, or source of information, are separated by time and/or distance and, therefore, cannot meet in a traditional classroom setting. As used in this document “remote learning” can include approaches that are digital or analog.
- Digital mode: Digital mode describes remote learning that is delivered via computer- or internet-based means. Digital mode remote learning requires students to have technology devices and, in most cases, internet access. Successful use of digital mode remote learning is dependent upon regular interaction between the student and educator.
- Analog mode: Analog mode describes remote learning that is delivered through a non-digital experience. This could include use of high-quality paper learning packets or other non-digital instructional materials that enable students to engage in learning outside of the school building or traditional classroom setting. High-quality analog learning materials are sequenced, not random and encourage student discovery and exploration apart from the school building. Successful use of analog mode remote learning is dependent upon regular interaction between the student and educator. Analog mode is often used when students lack access to technology devices and internet service.
- Teacher led: Teacher led remote learning occurs when a student is not in the school building but is synchronously interacting remotely with a teacher or other educator.
- Self-directed: Self-directed remote learning occurs when a student is largely responsible for the accomplishment of the learning on his or her own. This can include learning with asynchronous support from a teacher or other educator. Self-directed remote learning may be either computer/internet based, or non-computer/internet based.
(Note: Homework is not considered remote learning.)
Online Learning2: Online learning takes place through the use of a computer or other device that allows the student to engage in a learning experience. The definition of online learning is included separately from remote learning because online learning can be either remote or site based. Also, blended learning includes only online remote learning and no other type of remote learning. The online learning experience may be participation in a content-delivery software package or internet-based service, or on a learning management system for which the content has been provided by the school or district.
Blended Learning: Blended learning is a very specific learning arrangement that consists of a combination of school-based learning and online learning. Blended learning requirements are different between community schools and traditional public schools. A completely school-based educational experience is not a blended learning model, nor is a completely remote or online educational experience.
When is a Remote Learning Plan Needed? When is a Blended Learning Declaration Needed?
A Remote Learning Plan is needed in two circumstances:
“As-Needed” Component for Unplanned Occurrences:
Standard Component of the Educational Experience: A remote learning plan is needed when the district’s plan for the educational experience of its students includes – in any way -- a specific reliance on remote learning as a regular and standard component of the instructional program, for the entire district, for a particular building, for a particular school or for a particular group of students. This includes young students in preschool, where applicable. That is, the district deliberately will use remote learning starting at the beginning of the year and continuing through the end of the year to fulfill its obligation of educating some or all of its students. Remote learning structured in this way and conducted pursuant to a remote learning plan allows the district to meet legal instructional hours and attendance requirements.
A remote learning plan is needed when the district’s plan for the educational experience of its students includes an “as-needed” contingency remote learning approach for periods (generally in excess of three days) during which a school building may be closed pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 3313.482, but for which the school desires to continue to provide educational services that count as “days in attendance.” Additionally, there could be instances where a school closes for a day or two to disinfect before a weekend or break but wants to or should provide remote instruction.
A blended learning declaration is needed when the district’s plan for the educational experience of its students in all or part of a school building includes a specific combination of school-based learning and remote online learning. (Note: it must be remote online learning and not some other form of remote learning.) A blended learning declaration accompanied by all appropriately adopted policies and procedures allows the school to meet legal instructional hours and attendance requirements.
If a blended learning declaration is needed and submitted for a school, then the school does not need to have, or be included in a remote learning plan. A remote learning plan may be submitted by a district for some schools, while a separate blended learning declaration is submitted by the same district for other school buildings. There should be no overlap among the plans.
As schools consider the best option for reopening this fall, a number of scenarios for how schools may configure their educational experiences have emerged. Some of these involve remote learning and blended learning approaches. Below are some sample scenarios that schools may wish to review as they explore options for this fall. (The list below is meant to be illustrative, not comprehensive. In fact, one could conceptualize a variety of models that may represent hybrids of the models listed below.)
Pre-COVID Status Quo Model: The district plans to open largely as it operated prior to the spring school-building closure period – all students in the classroom, all day, five days a week.
The school using this model may still have a plan that would employ remote learning strategies on an “if-needed” basis for the conditions specified in ORC 3313.482, which include disease epidemic, hazardous weather conditions, law enforcement emergencies, inoperability of school buses or other equipment necessary to the school's operation, damage to a school building, or other temporary circumstances due to utility failure rendering the school building unfit for school use. Plans adopted under ORC 3313.482 may be used for a maximum of three days, therefore, a remote learning plan is needed in the event that a school building is closed in excess of three days and the school does not want to lose days.
In this scenario, if the school has such a plan, and if it does not want to lose days in the case of an extended school-building closure, then a remote learning plan is needed. A blended learning declaration is not needed.
Parent Option Model: A school plans to give parents the option of whether their student will participate in person, remotely or a combination of both.
In this scenario a remote learning plan is needed. A blended learning declaration is not needed since not all students are treated the same, and some students may be fully remote.
a.Tracking Choices: The school's remote learning plan should cover how it will keep track of students participating in different modes of learning and how the needs of all student groups will be met.
b. Changing Choices: The plan should consider how and when students can and will move from one mode of learning to another (for example, if a student starts out in-person, but needs or wants to move to remote learning midway through the year).
Grade-Level Dependent Model: Elementary school students are going to be in-person, but older grades are either a mix of remote and in-person or entirely remote.
In this scenario, a blended learning declaration may be needed for any setting in which students in all or part of the school are planning to continually use a combination of in-school learning and online learning. A remote learning plan may be needed for the schools that are not being operated completely in person and not using a blended learning model.
a. The district may use its remote plan to also plan for a scenario in which (some or all) elementary school students also need to learn remotely (for example, medically fragile students may need to learn remotely even if the rest of their class is in person).
Alternative Scheduling – Mixed Methods Model: The district is using alternative scheduling options to enable social distancing in classrooms.
A blended declaration may be needed for any setting in which students in all or part of the school are planning to continually use a combination of in-school learning and online learning. If a blended learning declaration is not used, then a remote learning plan is likely needed.
a. For example, one cohort of students is in the building Monday and Wednesday and another is in the building Tuesday and Thursday, with the two groups alternating Fridays. When students aren’t in the building, learning will occur remotely.
b. The school may use its remote learning plan to outline this schedule and may also include how to accommodate students that need to learn entirely remotely.
c. This scenario could also apply to a school implementing blended learning, if all participating students have access to the online or digital learning opportunities.
Additional details about blended learning and remote learning plans are outlined below.
Definition and Statutory Authority
Ohio Revised Code 3301.079(K)(1) defines blended learning as:
“The delivery of instruction in a combination of time in a supervised physical location away from home and online delivery whereby the student has some element of control over time, place, path, or pace of learning.”
There are statutory requirements specific to blended learning that do not apply to other methods of remote learning. A district or school that is considering a blended learning model should determine if it can meet the statutory requirements, as outlined below:
For community schools, the contract between the sponsor and governing authority must include the requirements of Ohio Revised Code 3314.03(A)(29). These are as follows:
a. An indication of what blended learning model or models will be used;
b. A description of how student instructional needs will be determined and documented;
c. The method to be used for determining competency, granting credit, and promoting students to a higher- grade level;
d. The school's attendance requirements, including how the school will document participation in learning opportunities;
e. A statement describing how student progress will be monitored;
f. A statement describing how private student data will be protected;
g. A description of the professional development activities that will be offered to teachers.
Additionally, ORC 3314.08(H)(2) requires community schools to document non-classroom learning opportunities for the portion of time the student is not in the school building. Community schools interested in implementing a blended learning model should consult the latest FTE Manual for assistance in documenting non-classroom learning opportunities.
For non-community schools wishing to implement a blended learning model, the local board of education or school governing body must adopt policies and procedures that address each of the following requirements as specified in Ohio Administrative Code 3301-35-03:
- Means of personalization of student-centered learning models to meet the needs of each student.
- The evaluation and review of the quality of online curriculum delivered to students.
- Assessment of each participating student’s progress through the curriculum. Students shall be permitted to advance through each level of the curriculum based on demonstrated competency/mastery of the material. (ORC 3302.41(B)(3))
- The assignment of a sufficient number of teachers to ensure a student has an appropriate level of interaction to meet the student’s personal learning goals. Each participating student shall be assigned to at least one teacher of record. A school or classroom that implements blended learning cannot be required to have more than one teacher for every 125 students. (ORC 3302.41(B)(1))
- The method by which each participating student will have access to the digital learning tools necessary to access the online or digital content. (ORC 3302.41(B)(2))
- The means by which each school shall use a filtering device or install filtering software that protects against internet access to materials that are obscene or harmful to juveniles on each computer provided to or made available to students for instructional use. The school shall provide such device or software at no cost to any student who uses a device obtained from a source other than the school.
- The means by which the school will ensure that teachers have appropriate training in the pedagogy of the effective delivery of on-line or digital instruction. (ORC 3302.41(B)(5))
- A school is exempt from school year hourly requirements established in ORC 3313.48(A) to the extent that a school alters the hours that it is open for instruction in order to accommodate blended learning opportunities that apply to all students. (ORC 3302.14(B)(4))
Non-community schools considering blended learning are encouraged to consider the methods for documenting non-classroom learning opportunities that are found within the FTE Manual; these are considered best practices. Also, the Department is prepared a resource entitled “Attendance Considerations for Remote Learning” which may be useful.
Implementing Blended Learning
Schools wishing to implement a blended learning model for the 2020-2021 school year must submit a blended learning declaration form no later than November 1, 2020. Forms must be submitted in the manner described below:
- Any local, city, exempted village, joint vocational school district, or STEM school established under chapter 3326 of the Ohio Revised Code, or chartered nonpublic school must complete the School District Blended Learning Declaration Form. The declaration should be submitted to the Department by a local, city or exempted village school district if one or more schools within the district wishes to implement a blended learning model for the 2020-2021 school year.
- Any community school established under ORC 3314 must work with its sponsor to complete and submit a Blending Learning Declaration through Epicenter. The contract between the governing authority and sponsor must include all requirements in ORC 3314.03(A)(29) [see above].
Definition and Statutory Authority
The term “remote learning” is not specifically legally defined. A working definition is provided in the Definitions
section of this document. This definition allows schools flexibility to determine the best solution for their community for opening school this fall.
Requirements for Remote Learning Plans
Remote learning plans are required to contain each of the following components:
- A description of how student instructional needs will be determined and documented;
- The method to be used for determining competency, granting credit and promoting students to a higher grade level;
- The school’s attendance requirements, including how the school will document participation in learning opportunities;
- A statement describing how student progress will be monitored;
- A description as to how equitable access to quality instruction will be ensured;
- A description of the professional development activities that will be offered to teachers.
The Department has provided both a Remote Learning Plan Checklist
and a Remote Learning Plan Form
to assist schools in the preparation and submission of remote learning plans.
Implementing a Remote Learning Model
Schools wishing to adopt a remote learning plan must submit their board-approved plan to the Department at email@example.com
no later than August 21, 2020
. The Department encourages schools to submit their plans early so that they are in place prior to the start of the 2020-2021 school year. With regard to attendance requirements, a school or district may wish to consult the Department’s “Attendance Considerations for Remote Learning” resource .
The Department does not approve remote learning plans but is required to make them publicly available on its website.
Whether a school or district chooses to use a blended learning declaration or implement a remote learning plan, there are several best practices that should be considered:
- Fixed schedules: Courses should have an established schedule for teacher-led instruction.
- Online learning materials: Online materials that are part of a remote learning or blended learning model should be aligned to the curriculum of the course designed to support the teacher-led instruction.
- Clear expectations: Instructors should establish clear expectations to guide students as they engage in non-classroom-based learning. Students may be offered flexibility with the pace of when the non-teacher-led instruction will occur, which could provide flexibility to students as they navigate the demands on their time when they are not in the classroom.
- Communication: Administrators and teachers should foster clear lines of communication within the school and to parents and families to ensure the whole school community understands the school’s plan for the 2020-2021 school year. This should include providing up-to-date contact information for parents.
- Age Appropriate: The expectations for non-classroom-based learning should be age appropriate for the grade and age of the student.
- Disability Aware: The expectations for non-classroom-based learning should be appropriate and in accordance with Individualized Education Programs in place for students with disabilities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a public school or school district provide online learning as a method of delivering education to students?
Yes. The delivery of education in an online setting is one option in the mixed methods approach that is available to public school districts. The Department encourages districts using online learning to submit a remote learning plan that describes the online learning model to be used, especially if the student has remote access to the online learning.
If a school or district proposes to have an entire school shift to only online learning, or to have some students in multiple schools enrolled in an online learning program, is the program considered to be a separate school with its own Information Retrieval Number (IRN)?
No. An online learning model is an educational approach, not a school. Students who receive instruction through an online learning model should remain enrolled and assigned to the building(s) which they would otherwise attend if not for the online program. However, an existing school can adopt a completely remote learning approach and continue to operate under an existing IRN.
Will the Ohio Department of Education or the State of Ohio provide an online platform or Learning Management System for schools and school districts?
No. The Ohio Department of Education/State of Ohio will not provide an online platform or a Learning Management system for schools or school districts to utilize for online learning. A variety of options exist for schools in terms of securing online platforms or learning management systems.
Will schools and districts be required to purchase their own online platform or Learning Management System?
No. Schools implementing a remote learning plan are not required to purchase their own online platform or Learning Management System (LMS), however they may choose to do so. Schools implementing blended learning – especially community schools – should consult the FTE Manual for requirements on tracking student engagement in learning opportunities to ensure they will be able to meet those requirements.
My district/school has already submitted a blended learning declaration – we now think we want to do remote learning. Can we rescind our blended learning declaration and submit a remote learning plan?
Yes, considering the remote learning plan provision of House Bill 164, schools and districts that previously submitted a blended learning declaration but that would now prefer to implement a remote learning plan may rescind their declaration. If a school wishes to rescind its blended learning declaration, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org indicating that the school no longer intends to implement a blended learning model for the 2020-2021 school year. This email must be received prior to submitting a remote learning plan. Remote learning plans must be submitted to the Department no later than August 21, 2020. The Department encourages districts to submit their remote learning plan before the first day of school.
How do I submit my remote learning plan? Where will these be made publicly available on the Ohio Department of Education website?
Remote learning plans should use the Remote Learning Checklist and Remote Learning Plan Form provided by the Department and may be emailed to email@example.com The Department will make plans publicly available at: education.ohio.gov.
Is there a remote learning plan template available for districts?
Yes. Districts may submit a remote learning plan that is locally designed and meets the requirements in House Bill 164. In addition, the Ohio Educational Service Center Association (OESCA) has developed a template that districts can use to submit their Remote Learning Plan. The template is located at the OESCA Reframing Education website (http://reframingeducation.org/remote-learning-plan/).
Can we amend our remote learning plan after August 21, 2020?
Yes, schools may amend their remote learning plan and should submit the updated plan to the Department by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Are schools required to submit either a blended learning declaration or a remote learning plan?
If a school is planning to implement blended learning, then a blended learning declaration is required. A school is not required to adopt a remote learning plan. However, in the event that an outbreak of COVID-19 requires a school building to close, having a remote learning plan in place allows a school to move to remote delivery without jeopardizing compliance with minimum hours and instructional calendar requirements.
Can I submit both a remote learning plan and a blended learning declaration?
Schools should choose whether they intend to implement blended learning or a remote learning plan. House Bill 164 excludes schools implementing blended learning from the definition of a qualifying school for purposes of submitting a remote learning plan. A district could submit both a remote learning plan and blended learning declaration that apply to different schools within the district.
Do schools operated by county boards of developmental disabilities, Educational Service Centers (ESCs), or chartered nonpublic schools need to submit a remote learning plan?
If these schools wish to implement remote learning for the 2020-2021 school year, they may submit a remote learning plan to the Department. The Department strongly encourages school districts that coordinate services or education for students within one of these entities to include the entity in their submitted remote learning plan, where appropriate.
Do preschools operated by county boards of developmental disabilities, Educational Service Centers (ESCs), JVSDs, or chartered nonpublic schools need to submit a remote learning plan?
For districts submitting remote learning plans, preschools should be included in any K-12 plans that are submitted and do not need to be submitted separately.
We want to implement blended learning, but not all our students have access to the internet, can we still use blended learning?
No. One of the required components of blended learning is that part of the learning experience is online. Schools implementing blended learning are required to outline the method by which each participating student will have access to online or digital content. If participating students do not have internet access that would enable them to access online content, the school should consider a remote learning plan.
ARE SCHOOLS REQUIRED TO OBTAIN LOCAL SCHOOL BOARD APPROVAL FOR REOPENING PLANS OR REVISIONS TO REOPENING PLANS?
Obtaining local school board approval for reopening plans is not a statutory requirement, although doing so is advisable and would be considered by the Department to be a best practice.
For additional questions or clarification about any of the information contained here, please contact the Unit of Field Relations at email@example.com
 An Internet- or computer-based community school is a community school in which the enrolled students work primarily from their residences on assignments in non-classroom-based learning opportunities provided via an internet- or other computer-based instructional method that does not rely on regular classroom instruction or via comprehensive instructional methods that include internet-based, other computer-based, and noncomputer-based learning opportunities unless a student receives career-technical education under section 3314.086 of the Revised Code.
 This document does not use the term “Online Academy” since this term is not consistently used across the state.
Last Modified: 8/10/2020 8:29:51 AM