[Editor’s note: This piece was originally published here on the Clayton Christensen Institute’s blog.]
One of the core ideas of the Christensen Institute’s research on innovation is that technologies improve over time to better meet the needs of the people they serve. For example, early smartphones supported only basic apps such as email and web browsing; but, over time, these devices have added functionality to support a huge variety of apps that have dramatically changed how people communicate, work, travel, and seek entertainment.
In education, however, we often don’t see this kind of steady progress. Rick Hess has described how education reform efforts often come and go in cycles without fundamentally changing the fabric of education or producing substantial improvement. And when it comes to technology-focused efforts, Larry Cuban has documented how, over the last century, schools embraced new technologies with great fanfare, only to discover later that the technologies did not deliver on their promised improvements.
Blended learning provides a fresh opportunity for education to break past these cycles of change without progress. But if it isn’t managed properly, then blended learning could fall into the same trap as other ideas that have gone before it. Recently, my colleagues Julia Freeland Fisher and Michael Horn wrote a paper that describes how education research needs to change in order to unlock advances in the field.
In line with their insights, below are a few noteworthy efforts to ensure that blended learning and other innovations in education continue to make progress in producing improved student outcomes.
1. TLA’s measurement agenda
At iNACOL’s recent Symposium, I participated in a session on measurement where Saro Mohammad laid out The Learning Accelerator’s vision for improving research on blended learning. Recognizing that there are still many gaps in the body of research on blended learning, TLA is working to improve measurement tools, develop more research, and disseminate those findings and developments to the field. The recent report, Measurement Agenda for Blended Learning, details TLA’s efforts to do this and describes the roles that researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and others can play to improve the collective understanding of effective blended-learning implementation. The research agenda that TLA lays out is critical for ensuring that blended learning improves to fulfill its potential. Without research to test and verify what works, blended and personalized learning are just persuasive educational philosophies.