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By Sarah Beauchemin

Meeting the diverse needs of individual students has always been a challenge for teachers. With only so many minutes in a class, instructors have long struggled to provide for students of all learning levels and learning styles.

This is especially true regarding underrepresented students, who often have unique family and lifestyle obligations that prevent them from attending a traditional school with set hours and fast-paced curriculums.

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Ingenuity Charter School’s mission is to support each student in reaching his or her academic goals, and to help show them they are capable of lifelong success. For more information, visit Ingenuity Charter School’s website.
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That is why hybrid learning programs – online learning experiences that are “blended” with face-to-face instruction – have become increasingly popular in high schools across the United States.

One local example of a successful hybrid learning program is Ingenuity Charter School, which opened in 2015 with a dedicated group of 160 students, giving San Diego’s underrepresented students access to high-quality education that fits around their home and work responsibilities.

While Ingenuity students are able to complete the majority of their studies online 24/7, they are also expected to show up to their assigned classroom hours, which are two three-hour blocks per week. During these appointment times, Ingenuity’s instructors work with the students one on one or in small groups to track their progress and offer assistance and mentorship.

Photo courtesy of Ingenuity Charter School

Hybrid Learning Increases Confidence and Self-Worth

Hybrid learning at Ingenuity helps underrepresented youth shape a successful future in a multitude of ways.

In addition to allowing students the flexibility of molding their own schedules, Ingenuity’s program also offers continuous year-round enrollment, highly personalized learning and the development of lifelong skills. All of these benefits are crucial to building disenfranchised students’ self-worth.

“If you are a disenfranchised child, you often don’t believe in yourself,” said Rachel Wells, a blended learning instructor at Ingenuity. “Schools and teachers are sometimes one of the few champions for these kids. They help them see the very best in themselves, and make their struggles seem like a natural part of the journey to success.”

Ingenuity’s hybrid program also offers personalized mentorship and tutoring – something that is important for under-represented youth, who may be more hesitant to ask for help than traditional students.

“One major benefit that disenfranchised youths gain from hybrid education is individualized access to education in a non-threatening environment,” said Wells. “Our learning structure allows for the elimination of fear and anxiety when it comes to asking for help. For example, students are able to go back and get constant review throughout a course. Our students always get face-to-face interaction through small group and one-to-one instruction as needed.”

Photo courtesy Ingenuity Charter School∂

Staying in School and Developing Lifelong Skills

Since underrepresented youth face many challenges on the home front, one of the biggest educational barriers for them is being able to stay in school and develop important lifelong skills. But hybrid learning exponentially increases their chances of doing that.

“Hybrid learning specifically helps underrepresented youth because it is focused on helping them stay in school and earning a high school diploma,” said Nicole Taugher, a blended learning instructor at Ingenuity. “It’s very easy for an under-represented student to slip through the cracks due to their lack of support in their educational endeavors. Other middle-class peers may have more educational support and end up being more successful. Underrepresented youth suffer the most because they’re receiving the least amount of support in multiple areas of their life.”

Ingenuity’s dedicated instructors provide the essential support necessary for their students to not only graduate, but also develop enduring skills for success.

For example, since Ingenuity’s hybrid learning program lacks a predetermined academic schedule, students must decide for themselves how to form their own balance of personal, professional and academic responsibilities. This gives them a sense of agency and control over their own lives.

Additionally, virtual and independent study courses can help students learn critical time-management and self-organization skills, helping them not only succeed in their current classes, but in college and beyond. This instills the courage and self-esteem they need to never give up on themselves or their goals.

“Disenfranchised youths gain hope from a hybrid education,” said Taugher. “A hybrid education allows students an opportunity to look into their future and see possibilities. Without this, they may struggle to want to stay in school. If they have hope for their education, then they will keep attending and eventually see the results of their hard work.”

Sarah Beauchemin

Sarah Beauchemin writes for Voice of San Diego’s Partner Voices and is a freelance writer and...

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