Guest Blog: Why Blended Learning Matters in Rural Communities

Posted by Keara Duggan on January 19, 2016


In conversations about education, we often focus on the large, urban districts that we all hear and read about. We know New York City DOE, Los Angeles USD, Houston ISD, but we often forget about the specific needs of rural communities that make up 57% of our school districts nationwide and serve more than 49 million students. I grew up in rural Southern Oregon, started my career teaching in rural New Mexico, and constantly think about how we can better support our rural districts.

Each rural community has a unique set of strengths, challenges, and opportunities, but for many rural districts, technology is creating new possibilities for how teaching and learning can happen. The integration of technology can create access to resources and connections beyond a single zip code, valley, plain, or mountain. The Ed Elements team is lucky to have had the chance to work with some amazing rural districts across the country to design and implement blended learning. Through their work we've realized that innovation, specifically blended learning, matters deeply in rural communities and has created profound changes for their students and teachers. Here are just a few ways that blended learning matters in rural communities:
  • With technology, learning can happen anywhere (even on long bus rides for football games and debate tournaments). Alabama's Piedmont City Schools has established city-wide wifi so students can access onling learning resources anywhere in town. Coachella Valley Unified SD has put wifi on buses that travel to parking lots, trailer parks, and under-served communities throughout their area. 
  • Digital content can provide access to courses otherwise impossible to offer in small, rural districts. THE journal reporter Andrea Beesley shares how rural schools are used to meeting the challenges of small staff and limited course offerings in innovative ways, including technology to offer more advanced high school courses. 
  • Blended learning, with a focus on student ownership, can better prepare rural students for the changing future of college and work. Uinta County SD #1 Superintendent Dr. James Bailey shares why his rural district in Evanston, WY chose to pursue blended learning in order to better support their students to thrive in college and careers. 
  • Blended learning can help rural students connect to the world. Fourth grade teacher Wendy Daniels used Google Docs to create virtual pen pals with a 5th grade classroom in Middletown, NY. 

To learn more about how rural districts are using blended learning to support their students and teachers, click here. 


Education Elements partners with districts to design and implement personalized learning through our consulting services and Highlight, our personalized learning platform. Our work helps districts to articulate their vision, build their capacity, design and implement new instructional models, and most importantly, important student outcomes. Visit for more information. 




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