Friday, February 18, 2011

Blended Learning Could Hit or Miss

How do you define blended learning? Michael B. Horn and Heather Clayton Staker describe blended learning as “any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.” What – did I read that right, “with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace?” Students in charge of their learning, is this possible?

Yes, but . . . if all we do is add some online learning into the current model of education and let students set their own pace will students receive any better education than they do now? Probably not. The current system was built around the factory system and the school year is shorter than many other countries. Students are measured in seat time and calendar years not on individual learning and mastery of concepts.

To help school districts incorporate blended learning models that leads to better outcomes for students let’s look at “six “district clusters” or models, of blended learning” from this article:
  1. Face-to-Face Driver – the teacher would use online learning on a case-by-case basis to supplement and/or for remediation.
  2. Rotation – students would rotate between online learning, one-to-one, self-paced and traditional face-to-face instruction.
  3. Flex – students learn mainly online with teachers providing on-site support as needed through tutoring or small group sessions.
  4. Online Lab – students use an online platform for the entire course within the school building while taking other traditional courses.
  5. Self-Blend – students take one or more online courses in addition to their traditional schooling.
  6. Online Driver – online courses with online teacher delivering all curricula and students not necessarily in a school building.
When blended learning works students receive a personalized pedagogy that allows for working at his/her own pace with more students begin successful. Blended learning provides the opportunity for schools to require fewer, more specialized teachers and would use building space more efficiently. With so many veteran teachers retiring and new teachers so tech savvy blended learning could solve staffing issues and close achievement gaps for many students.

Good blended learning “models should allow for innovation across curriculum, culture, teaching, intervention, professional development, and leadership development.” But there are still obstacles to overcome. One main obstacle is the “historically inhospitable” climate of public K-12 educational systems and their resistance to change. The report created by Michael B. Horn and Heather Clayton Staker outlines what needs to happen for blended learning to be successful:

  1. Integrated systems that support the seamless assimilation of online content from different sources.  Various LMS need to sync well with other LMS to provide online products to all students.
  2. High-quality, dynamic content aligned to state standards needs to be developed.
  3. Analytics – analyze student outcomes
  4. Automation
  5. Enhanced student motivation through applications that engage students in the learning process
In order for education technology companies to provide affordable, quality online content policy makers need to create a better framework for blended learning models that provides individualized learning for all students. If school districts are allowed to create new schools with more flexibility then transformation to a successful blended learning environment for all students could be achieved.

To read the entire article from eSchool News:

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