Elements of Blended Learning

How hardware, curriculum and instruction are essential components of blended learning — and individualized instruction.

SMARTER SCHOOLS | by Michael Spencer

Blended Learning Elements Michael SpencerLike the name implies, blended learning is a mix, not just of online and offline instruction, but of several different necessary items including the right hardware, curriculum, instruction, and individualized instruction.

The definition of blended learning, according to the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, “is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.”

In blended learning, essentially, a student learns with a blend of self-paced online and classroom instruction.

Individualized instruction goes hand in hand with blended learning. Individualized instruction is instruction that appreciates the unique individuality of students, is different and personal for each student — and may take into account pacing and learning styles; it’s an alternative to one-size-fits-all and it is made possible through technology advancements of today.

For a thoughtful look at blended learning today, consider a pie chart divided into three parts: hardware, curriculum and facilitator, or instructor. An individual student needs all three. Each of these parts would vary based on the student’s academic level.

A kindergarten student might need an age appropriate and skill-level appropriate device, whether a tablet or laptop of some sort. A high school student would need a different device that better suits their age and skill level.

The curriculum involved for an elementary student would certainly not be appropriate for a student gearing up to go into college and continue their studies in a postsecondary world. The online curriculum would need to suit the student socially, as well as academically.

Likewise, the facilitator or instructor would need to address the student in such a way as to be appropriate for their age and skillset.

Ideally, the elements of blended learning would be easily controllable by the facilitator, as well as the parent. The student would also play a part in this. With different levels of access for the sake of making adjustments, the right mix of hardware, curriculum and instruction would be such that the student would get the greatest degree of age- and skill-appropriate learning that is suited for them.

In this way, no two students would necessarily have the same device, curriculum or instruction. Devices would be tiered, curriculum would be customized, and instruction would be tailored to meet the student where he or she was at.

How this is accomplished is what so many different people working in education today, not to mention those in the technology sector, are hard at work on creating.

This is not the end all or be all on blended learning, but is meant to provide a simple view of complex issues in this area. Nonetheless, the best solutions will take into account these elements as they seek to move a student forward on a learning path that helps them toward achievement and success in life.

Michael Spencer is Senior Director of International Business Development at K12. He is past SVP at The American Education Corporation and past president of One2OneMate, with extensive experience building businesses, designing and manufacturing innovative consumer electronic products and successfully marketing them into the US, European and Latin American markets. He is a regular columnist writing the Smarter Schools column for EdTech Digest. Write to: mspencer52163@gmail.com

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One Response to Elements of Blended Learning

  1. Dan McGuire says:

    This definition of blended learning does not acknowledge the new mode of learning that is possible and desirable when a true integration of face to face and online is achieved. This, and the Christensen Institute’s work, keep face to face and online parallel without ever achieving the new higher level of inquiry and engagement that happens when the learning experience is restructured and transformed by the intentional integration of synchronous and asynchronous writing and discourse. See http://developingprofessionalstaff-mpls.blogspot.com/ for more.

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