Outside of education, Staker gave the example of the transistor, which competed with the vacuum tube. At first, the transistor wasn’t as sophisticated as the tube, but large companies affiliated with broadcasting took an interest and spent millions developing the technology. In 1951, the transistor was used as a hearing aid with little success.

However, in 1955 the transistor was used as a pocket radio, which although didn’t resonate well with the broad consumer market, was adopted, and promoted by, teenagers. The youth adoption of the technology eventually led to Sony’s 1959 portable television developed using the transistor, rendering the vacuum tube obsolete.

“Online learning is currently following the pattern of a disruptive innovation,” said Staker. “We can see this in the numbers we’ve been tracking at the Institute: By 2019, 50 percent of high schools will offer an online course. Online learning also got its start serving non-consumers [credit recovery, scheduling conflicts, professional development, after-school programs, and more]. It’s also getting better over time and migrating into brick-and-mortar settings through blended learning.”

(Read: “INFOGRAPHIC: Blended learning taking over schools.”)

Staker explained that blended learning is neither a sustaining innovation nor a disruptive innovation…at least, not yet. Instead, blended learning is a breed called hybrid innovation.

Hybrid innovations and classrooms

“Often industries experience a hybrid stage,” said Staker.

Consider excavators, or machines that dig material from the earth. At the time, cable machines were the standard until the hydraulic backscoop was released. Eventually, hydraulics took over cables completely, but between these two phases the hybrid machine, called a “Hyrdohoe” was invented and permeated the digging market.

Spotting a hybrid is easy if you know what to look for, explained Staker. Specifically, it:

  • Includes both the old and new technology
  • Targets existing users, not non-consumers
  • Tries to do the job of existing technology
  • Is less “foolproof” then a disruptive innovation

“You can see hybrid innovation in other markets everywhere,” Staker noted. “For example, hybrid cars that use both diesel and electricity. Blended learning is the hybrid innovation that is the between phase of traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms to pure online learning.”

So far, there are four emerging blended learning models available in classrooms today: 1) The Rotation model that includes station rotation, lab rotation, the flipped classroom, and individual rotation; 2) The Flex model; 3) The A La Carte model and; 4) The Enriched Virtual model.

(Read more about these four models: “Four must-read blended learning models.“)

“Some models of blended learning are hybrids,” Staker said, “including the Rotation model of station, lab and flipped; whereas Flex, A La Carte and the Enriched Virtual models are purely disruptive.”

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(Next page: How to use the right innovation in your school)