Almost every educator I’ve asked about leading a blended-learning initiative has expressed that building a blended program is a process, not an event. That’s a big reason why the Blended Learning Universe (BLU) includes as a resource a 9-step design guide to support educators at every step in their blended journey. The design guide is based on Heather Staker and Michael Horn’s design advice in their 2013 book Blended. The journey launches with identifying a problem to solve or a goal to achieve and continues through refinement and iteration. Just as we portray it as a wheel, like most worthwhile endeavors, a strong blended program essentially involves perpetual effort and ongoing design decisions.
The final step, step 9, of the design process recommends an important discovery-driven planning process. Internally at the Christensen Institute, our team has recently engaged with this very process as we launch a new research project filled with unknowns. Starting with discovery-driven planning has helped us to pave a way forward that doesn’t leave our next year of work to chance. Rather, it lets us identify our goals upfront and think through not only what we want to see happen, but ways of testing whether those aspirations will actually hold true. If we test our assumptions as the project moves along, we aren’t taking the risk of waiting until the end to see if we are right or wrong.
There’s never any guarantee of success, but if as a team you honestly, thoughtfully lay out all of the risks involved when starting an endeavor—especially one as layered and intertwined with multiple stakeholders like blended learning in a school or district—you increase your chances of discovering a clear path forward.