Blended learning classrooms continue to gain popularity

Posted on Friday, 1/17/2014 3:43 PM

Blended learning classrooms, or those in which teachers combine traditional, on-site education with online learning opportunities through the use of student software, garnered a large amount of attention in 2013. According to the 2013 Keeping Pace with K-12 Online & Blended Learning Annual Review of Policy and Practice report, at least 24 states and Washington, D.C., have adopted blended learning classrooms, a number that is only expected to grow in 2014. 

The report stated that not only are public schools incorporating blended learning in the classroom at an ever-growing rate, but private and independent schools have begun to utilize the technology as well. In addition, the number of fully online schools has grown, with the report stating 20 states are operating 100 percent virtual classrooms for the 2013-14 school year, serving more than 310,000 students.

The potential for blended learning
Blended learning classrooms afford students opportunities previously unavailable to them, including the ability to move at their own pace, personalized learning and accurate data collection, according to the January 2014 eSchool News report. In addition to positively impacting students, the report cites increased teacher involvement and preparation as a large factor for the success of these classrooms.

Teachers have more time to prepare lessons, collaborate with peers, create innovative assignments and study student data collection, according to their findings.

One school that has successfully integrated blended learning into the classroom is Rocketship Si Se Puede Academy in San Jose, Calif. Although a large percentage of students at the academy are English Language Learners, the school is ranked as one of the highest in the state, which Charlie Bufalino, manager of growth and policy at Rocketship Education, believes is due to blended learning and the opportunities it provides.

Teachers in this school system must meet with fellow teachers at least once a week to discuss ideas and curricula and complete 300 hours of professional development throughout the school year.

"We learn a lot about what works and what doesn't not so much from scientific research - since there's not a lot out there at the moment, anyway - but from what we've heard from our own schools," said Bufalino in the report.

Blended learning offers students and teachers alike the ability to customize learning while adhering to school and nationwide standards.

Creating a successful blended learning classroom
There are several ways in which teachers can properly integrate online learning into the classroom. eSchool News interviewed school leaders who had successfully utilized this growing trend and compiled a list of five factors that lead to the best possible blended class.

Recommendations include defining academic goals, or deciding upon measurable and attainable objectives, supporting the needs of all students, or ensuring students can remain actively engaged through the use of interactive and fun educational tools, and remaining innovative and open to adaptation.

Sari Factor, author of the report and CEO of Edgenuity, said teachers are key to creating an inspiring blended learning education for students.

"Empower your staff to tailor a program that is effective for your students, and when you encounter obstacles, make changes quickly to overcome them," she recommended.

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