Posts Tagged 'research'

Top 5 #BlendedLearning Reports from 2014

The past year produced a plethora of reports about blended learning. However the top 5 not-to-be missed reports provide thought provoking writing and thoughts about the implementation of blended learning. Ultimately, teachers are the ones that impact blended learning, and how teachers apply the tools and strategies and pedagogy of blended learning is what empowers student learning and increases student achievement. The entire list can be found here.  But here are my top 5 (in no particular order):

  • Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning. (Nov. 2014) This 500-page report provides the most up-to-date research and policies about blended and online learning. Find all of the research, reports and important papers documented all in one place.  The report researchers Kathryn Kennedy and Rick Ferdig have long been involved in researching online and blended learning, especially at the K-12 level.
  • Reimagining Teaching in a Blended Classroom (Dec. 2014). This report by TNTP focuses on the importance of every child having a quality teacher. This report provides excellent charts and idea about the skills needed by a blended learning teacher. Ultimately, teachers in a digital world need to be researchers and developers, integrators and guides. The TNTP organization is focused on teaching excellence and their researchers provide important thinking about what teaching should look like now and in the future.
  • Blended Teacher Competency Framework (iNACOL, Oct. 2014). This report provides a framework and shows the mindsets, qualities, adaptive skills and technical skills needed to be a blended learning teacher. The graphics and visuals presented provide important ideas of the skills needed by blended learning teachers.
  • Understanding and Supporting Blended Learning Teaching Practices from Education Elements (Oct. 2014). This report explains the transformation that takes place when blended learning is implemented. Highlights several schools where blended learning is being implemented. Shares a useful blended learning rubric for teachers that includes classroom culture, classroom management, planning and delivery, assessment and analysis and classroom technology.
  •  Knocking Down Barriers: How California Superintendents are Implementing Blended Learning (Sept. 2014). This policy brief by the Christensen Institute identified many of the barriers to blended learning and 11 tips for implementing blended learning for administrators. They brought together seven California superintendents to talk about the barriers to blended learning and then offered some solutions. The policy landscape and barriers in California is similar to every other state so the ideas in this brief are useful to administrators and teachers alike.

And, if you have not done so yet, join the ongoing conversation about blended learning by joining the Blended Teacher Network.

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#BlendedLearning Research and Resources

The term, “blended learning” grew out of online learning and was first introduced in literature at the college level in 2004 and then at the K-12 level in 2014. The first K-12 online school opened in 1994 with the bulk of online programs opening in the mid 2000s. The first blended learning school is difficult to determine, but many suggest it was Rocketship Charter Schools that opened in San Jose, Ca 2007. It is important to note that the field of K-12 online learning began approximately in 1997 and the field of blended learning began approximately in 2007. Research in the fields of blended and online learning is emerging as you can’t study or research or evaluate something that does not exist. In addition, you can find ongoing research on my website here.

Listed below are resources that have developed in the field of blended learning.

Case Studies

Blended Learning Guides and Reports

Blended Learning Webinars

Blended Learning Videos

 

WebsitesTwitter Hastag for Blended Learning – #blendedlearning

Apples to Apples please

By MSR. Creative Commons Attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/msr/448820990/

It is important to state up front that understanding how K-12 schools are funded is complex. Analyzing how online learning may save money or increase productivity is even more complex.   In January 2012, the US Department of Education released the report entitled, “Understanding the Implications of Online Learning for Educational Productivity (Bakia et al, 2012) that provides further analysis about online learning and K-12 school funding.  I like to keep up with the latest reports and research about online and blended learning – especially reports that have to do with costs and online learning –  since I have done a little writing on that topic myself.

This report does a good job of identifying most of the current research and reports about online learning that are summarized and categorized at the end of the report.  In addition, the authors clearly delineate the types of costs that should be examined in any cost analysis such as identifying all resources involved such as hardware and connectivity costs, teachers time costs, opportunity costs, and looking at all cost parameters if comparing online programs to traditional school programs. Finally, the authors explain that educational productivity may be measured by outcomes such as graduation rates, test scores, student engagement, or school success – factors that are not always measured in dollars. If a student is able to learn (rate of learning) the material in a quicker way, this can be seen as a savings to the overall system.

This report begins in the Executive Summary by stating “Educational systems are under increasing pressure to reduce costs while maintaining or improving outcomes for students. To improve educational productivity many school districts and states are turning to online learning.”   

Unfortunately, the two statements above suggest that online learning in K-12 schools can reduce costs – and adds to the belief by many people that starting an online learning program will reduce costs.  The reality, especially in the short term, is that online or blended learning costs more because any time new technology is implemented, there are additional costs for online content, course management systems, and training for teachers, among other things.  Having established a part time online program and a full time online charter school, I learned firsthand that there needed to be an up front investment of funds to establish the program.  In the report, the authors quote from the 2006 report entitled, “20/20 Costs and Funding of Virtual Schools” which brought together experts in the field of K-12 online learning to discuss the costs to implement an online learning program.  In the 20/20 report, one conclusion was that it costs about $1.6 million to adequately implement an online school program.  Although I think that the costs of developing a part time or full time online program in a school or school district are less today, there are always going to be additional costs in the start up phase for any part time or full time online or blended learning program.

The Bakia report examines the various research and reports that existed regarding K-12 online learning.  They quoted from the US DeptEd Meta-analysis entitled, “Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies (2010)” which concluded that “learning outcomes for purely online instruction were equivalent to those of purely face-to-face instruction” and that “students tended to perform better in blended learning courses than in traditional face-to-face instruction.”  The Bakia report authors explained that in the 2010 analysis, that “only five of the 45 studies included in in the meta-analysis focused on K-12 students, and these five studies looked exclusively at blended online learning programs.”

This report suggests there are several opportunities for online learning to reduce educational costs by:

  • Increasing the rate of learning
  • Reducing total salary costs
  • Reducing facilities costs
  • Realizing economies of scale

The one area that this report and other reports regarding costs for online learning do not address, is how colleges and universities are funded differently than K-12 schools.   Repeatedly, writers examine research done at the university level and apply it to K-12 schools.  For the record, most colleges and universities are funded by students in one course at a time and students are charged tuition to take the course.  In most K-12 school systems, schools receive money per student based on the number of students in attendance (seat time) each day and reported to state departments of education for funding. In most states, the FTE or ADA received by schools goes to the schools and does not follow the student.

In many reports about online learning, there is an examination of the available literature about costs for online learning, which are mostly higher education. Then, the writers generalize the findings to K-12 schools.  The Bakia report does the same when they state that online learning can “reduce total salary costs.”  The rationale for this conclusion is based on university research (Twigg, 2003 and others) and information collected from Florida Gulf Coast University.  The authors suggest that the number of students per teacher can be increased which would then reduce the overall costs. This may work fine at the university level, but it does not work well at most high schools where the funding does not change much regardless of the class sizes.

Future reports regarding costs for online learning at the K-12 level should utilize research conducted at the K-12 level when generalizing about how online learning may reduce costs in K-12 schools (there are many aspects of online learning that can be compared between universities and K-12 schools but cost is not one of them).  Overall, there are so many variables that may cause online learning to cost less or more than face-to-face learning that it may not really be possible to complete a real cost comparison. However, for those who do attempt to complete cost comparisons, please compare apples with apples.


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