Blended learning refers to the blend of online learning and brick-and-mortar schooling. Blended learning takes place when students learn at least in part online, with some element of student control over the time, place, path, and/or pace of their learning, while also enjoying the benefits that come with education at a physical school (Christensen Institute).
Blended learning provides an opportunity to use technology to improve student performance and encourage school redesign, while maintaining accountability and efficiency in the use of public funds.
Any fair look at education technology in U.S. K–12 schools must acknowledge that the nation has spent over $100 billion on computers in the past few decades with very little to show for it in the way of results.
Blended learning is critically different from—but easily confused with—the much broader trend of equipping classrooms with devices and software. We believe that for Texas to lead the world in student achievement, our schools must be wise enough to look beyond the technology trap and, instead, pursue a more strategic and focused blended learning strategy.
Blended learning has three components. First, blended learning 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. Some element of student control is critical. The technology used for the online learning must shift content and instruction to the control of the student in at least some way for it to qualify as blended learning from the student’s perspective, rather than just the use of digital tools from the classroom teacher’s perspective.
The second part of the definition is that the student learns at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home. In other words, the student attends a physical school with teachers or guides and benefits from the important social, educational, and extracurricular experiences and mentorships that physical campuses can provide.
The third part of the definition is that the modalities along each student’s learning path are connected to provide an integrated learning experience. Most blended learning programs use a computer-based data system to provide continual formative assessments, track each student’s progress, and help to match the modality—whether it is online, one-on-one, or small group—to the appropriate level and topic.
For more on blended learning, see Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, by Michael Horn and Heather Staker, whose research for the Christensen Institute provides the framework for this initiative.
Raising Blended Learners is a demonstration initiative showcasing strategies for using blended learning to improve student achievement across diverse student demographics and geographic regions in the state, particularly among schools and districts with persistent achievement gaps.
Through a 10-month competitive consideration process, five school district winners were selected as demonstration sites to serve as proof points for the effective implementation of blended learning. Each demonstration site will receive up to $500,000 in grant funding over three years plus comprehensive implementation support. Fifteen additional districts were selected as pilot sites and will receive implementation support without grant funding to promote the expansion of blended learning statewide.