Does Blended Learning Really Work?

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Does Blended Learning Really Work?

    If you have never heard of “blended learning,” it might surprise     you that this fancy-sounding name is little more than another way to     refer to online or computer-based education programs. The past 15     years have shown more and more reliance on computers and technology     as a supplement to classroom education. Over the course of less than     a decade (from 2000 to 2009), the number of K-12 students who took     an all-online course skyrocketed from several thousand to 3 million.

    In fact, many students at the high school level now earn their     secondary degrees by working mostly from home, attending virtual     school. Rather than using technology to supplement classroom work,     these students attend actual physical classrooms as a supplement to     their online educations.

    Research has shown that the blend of technological and face-to-face     instruction has actually done a lot for students. It is only     natural, after all, for this generation to be using technology as a     part of education. An article from the Johns Hopkins School of     Education asserts that blended learning could even mean things like     educators using Smart Boards as a tool for demonstration or text     messaging with other teachers or parents as a way to keep tabs on     student behavior.

All this talk of technology in the classroom begs a simple     question: Does blended learning work?

    Blended learning assumes a seamless integration of face-to-face     instruction with online learning. Most critics of blended learning     believe that online learning can be an extremely valuable experience     for young people, providing a level of individualized interactivity     that is rarely available in whole classrooms. Many online curricula     and programs are tailored to respond to student data, so that kids     can fly through the subject matter they already know and get to the     more challenging work.

    However, because    this approach relies so heavily on student testing     data, online learning can sometimes place students at a lower level     than the one at which they are actually able to perform, thereby not     challenging them sufficiently. As such, online learning can     sometimes work similarly to standardized testing, creating a     learning experience that is based on a student’s ability to take a     test rather than actually assessing his or her grasp of the     material.

    Research shows that blended learning works best when the     technological aspect is a supplement to face-to-face instruction,     rather than the other way around. Teachers who use technology as a     tool to engage and instruct tend to be very successful. Many online     programs can be customized to reflect what students are learning in     their classrooms, which also works well as a supplement to their     teachers’ instruction.

    There is no escaping the “digital age.” As more and more kids     grow up with computers and the Internet, it makes perfect sense to     allow them the opportunity to use these kinds of learning in their     own schools and classrooms.

    For more information, see this article from the Johns     Hopkins School of Education and this SlideShare from  the London Knowledge Lab.