Report: Blended learning could hit or miss

There are still obstacles that are preventing blended learning from reaching its full potential, says the report.

Blended learning has the ability to transform education, according to a new report—but if certain guidelines and practices aren’t ensured, blended learning could become just another add-on to an archaic system on its way out, the report warns.

The report, titled “The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning,” by Michael B. Horn, co-founder and executive director of education at the Innosight Institute, and Heather Clayton Staker, a senior research fellow for education practice at the institute, describes how blended learning can affect education, but why it also could fall short of its potential.

The report defines blended learning as “any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.”

According to the report, online learning has grown exponentially over the past decade. For example, in 2000 roughly 45,000 K-12 students took an online course. In 2009, more than 3 million K-12 students did. One analysis the report mentions reveals that 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered online by 2019.

“What was originally a distance-learning phenomenon no longer is,” explains the report. “Most of the growth is occurring in blended learning environments. … As this happens, online learning has the potential to transform America’s education system by serving as the backbone of a system that offers more personalized learning approaches for all students.”

However, the report also notes that policy makers and education leaders must adopt the right policies for this to happen.

“There is a significant risk that the existing education system will co-opt online learning as it blends it into its current flawed model—and just as is the case now, too few students will receive an excellent education,” the report states.

“Today’s education system is a monolithic one that was built to be like a factory system,” Horn explained to eSchool News. “Rather than measure learning and move individual students along to new concepts as they master previous ones, it measures seat time and moves students along when they hit certain dates on a calendar.”

Watch an interview with Horn about his book Disrupting Class on eSN.TV:

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“Time is fixed,” he continued,  “and the learning is variable. This system worked really well in the past. But now that we are asking it to educate every student to his or her highest potential, it was never built to do this job.”

The big danger with integrating technology into education, said Horn, is “that we do what we’ve always done, which is to implement it as a sustaining innovation rather than a disruptive one—that we simply layer technology over the traditional system, which would then co-opt it.”

Meris Stansbury

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