Blended Learning

iNACOL Offers Lessons for Successful Blended Learning Implementations

The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) has released a new report, Blended Learning: The Evolution of Online and Face-to-Face Education from 2008-2015, that examines the history of blended learning and offers a range of implementation insights through several case studies.

"Blended learning, also referred to as hybrid learning, combines the best features of traditional schooling with the advantages of online learning to deliver personalized, differentiated instruction across a group of learners," according to the report. "Students in formal blended learning educational programs learn online part of the time, yet have the benefit of face-to-face instruction and supervision to maximize their learning and to best fit their own needs."

Blended learning models generally fall into one of four categories, according to the report's authors, originally identified through research from the Clayton Christensen Institute. Those models include:

  • The rotation model, in which students rotate between some combination of learning modalities, at least one of which is online. The rotation model comprises the sub-models station rotation, lab rotation, flipped classroom and individual rotation;
  • The flex model, in which online learning is the primary learning modality, with an on-site teacher of record on premises and possible occasional offline activities;
  • The a la carte model, in which a student's entire course is online, but the student is physically present in a traditional school or learning center; and
  • The enriched virtual model, which requires students to attend in-person learning sessions, but allows them to complete the remainder of coursework online.

After examining case studies of seven schools using several different models and sub-models, including one that uses all four models, the report offers four lessons for successful blended learning implementations:

  • Create a school climate and culture that emphasizes continuous improvement;
  • Clearly define the goals and benefits of blended learning;
  • Examine professional development needs and update them as necessary to make sure teachers have the appropriate tools and skills for the new models; and
  • Address implementation barriers at both the system and school level.

"Blended learning is not about the technology itself; It is about the shift in the instructional model to personalized, student-centered learning to ensure each student's success," according to the report's conclusion. "However, it is difficult to navigate this shift and close achievement gaps without the effective implementation of technology to transform learning and support teachers in personalizing instruction."

The full report is available at inacol.org.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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