The shape of modern education continues to shift as virtual, online educational technologies are developed. In light of shrinking budgets and schools trying to do more with less, traditional, face-to-face instruction at brick-and-mortar schools may no longer be the future of education. Enter "Blended Learning."
According to the Innosight Institute, blended learning is "A formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace, and at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home."
Blended Learning: A Disruptive Innovation, an infographic from education technology company, Knewton, predicts this new, alternative learning model is at once here to stay and on the rise. The infographic notes: "Blended learning will play a vital role as school operators begin to rethink the structure and delivery of learning while dealing with the realities of public funding."
The rise of online education
In 2001-2002, an estimated 40,000 - 50,000 students enrolled in K-12 online education. By 2010, that number rose above 4 million K-12 students in school districts throughout the U.S., according to Innosight. The growth in enrollment numbers reveals that most states and departments of education are embracing online learning.
In fact, a 2012 report from the Evergreen Education Group found that 16 states offer full-time online instruction at the elementary school (grades K-5), middle school (grades 6-8), and high school level (grades 9-12). And, while not all states are offering fully online instructional programs at this point, many are making supplemental online instruction available, such as the following:
- High school: 48 states
- Middle school: 24 states
- Elementary school: 3 states
Where does blended learning go from here?
So, where is the future of blended learning headed? Up, according to the Knewton infographic. For example, the infographic projects that by 2019, approximately half of all high school courses will be delivered online. But, while progress is expected, the infographic notes much more work is needed to enhance blended learning. Knewton argues this enhancement falls into five categories of development:
- Integrated systems. Seamlessly bring online content into the student experience from different sources
- High quality content. Content must be personalized and adhere to national standards
- Analytics. The ability for operators to measure and review instruction to better personalize student learning
- Automation. Limit manual tasks for instructors, such as taking attendance
- Applications that enhance student motivation. Incorporate features such as social networks, games or badges to incentivize student learning
Over the course of the next few years, the various models of blended learning should continue to evolve as educators, principals, educational tech companies and the like search for the optimal relationship between delivery instruction, scheduling, teacher functions, feedback, physical space and more.