Clarifying what is #blendedlearning #ce14

The first blended learning connected educator webinar occurred last night. You can listen to the recording via Blackboard Collaborate by clicking on this link. And the slide deck is here.

The first part of the webinar focused on the definition of blended learning.


Christensen Institute Senior Research Fellow Heather Staker was one of the people who developed the first definition of blended learning and continues to be involved in how the definition has evolved. Heather shared that originally, she and her team visited 40 schools or organizations who were involved in blended learning and then developed the definition to include all the schools. She shared that they wrote a definition that is “normative” which would describe blended learning but not necessarily describe what is high quality blended learning. She went on to explain the definition really identifies three areas: first, blended learning is online and students have some control of their path and pace, in both brick-and-mortar and at home, and student modalities are integrated together within the curriculum. She pointed out that the first part of the definition makes it clear that you cannot have a blended learning classroom that does not do some instruction online. They distinguished between full time online courses and blended learning by adding in the phrase “in both brick-and-mortar and at home”. Then she shared how in some schools, students would go to a computer lab and play “math blaster” and then go back to class and work in a math textbook and the computer lab time and the classroom math time were not connected. This was when the final section of the definition was added that “modalities along each student’s path within a course are integrated…” The assembled panel suggested that the definition may change again when the technologies allow more seamless access to networks and technologies that easily deliver real time student data to teachers via a digital dashboard type system.


Heather also clarified the difference between a technology-rich classroom and a blended learning classroom. She shared that “the number one mistake the field makes when talking blended learning is to conflate all instruction that involves digital aspects that any classroom that uses online technologies is blended when in fact that is not the case.” She went on to explain that there has been an incredible amount of money spent on technology in schools over the years with little impact on instruction. Blended learning does impact learning in a much different way than simply a technology rich classroom. Blended learning allows teachers to do more with less which is the way of the future for all schools. She went on to talk about the real promise of blended learning, which comes down to the the “how” and the “why.” One of the main benefits of blended is to personalize and tailor instruction for each student. The “how” of blended learning is how it allows personalized learning at scale, while the “why” is that personalized learning piece and how blended learning can meet each student’s needs just in time.

Allison Powell from iNACOL, who was also a part of the panel, shared that she is hearing a lot of confusion in the field with lots of buzz words such as “blended learning”, “personalized learning”, “competency based learning” and people are starting to use them to mean the same thing when they are not. The Christensen Institute has provided information regarding the definition and models of blended learning. iNACOL has provided a document entitled “Mean What You Say…” that discusses the meaning of personalized learning as well as a document entitled “Re-engineering Information Technology: Design Considerations for Competency Education.”

Overall, listening to the first part of this webinar will provide important information and definitions about what blended learning really is. Take about 20 minutes to listen in when you can.

Join us for the Tuesday night Tweet Ups about blended learning at 8:00 EST / 5:00 PST with the hashtags #ce14 and #blendedlearning. All blended learning strand information for the month of October can be found here.


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