July 12-13: The What, Why, Who, and How of Blended Learning Study Circle: Day 1, Post 1

Welcome to our 2-day study circle on the LINCS resource, The What, Why, Who, and How of Blended Learning! Thank you to Ashly Winkle, moderator of the Integrating Technology CoP for joining us as we talk about the benefits of continuing blended learning even as learning centers reopen.

Before we dive in, go ahead and review the resource we're discussing, and come back to share your thoughts!

Here's the first question of the day:

  • Page 5 highlights the differences among hybrid, distance, and blended learning. Pages 8-9 discuss benefits of blended learning for both programs and students. To you, what makes blended learning more effective than either of the other two options?


The key word on page 5 that describes the difference between blended and hybrid or distance is integrated. Blended learning is generally more intentional in its approach to include technology resources that support and extend learning that takes place face-to-face (whether in the classroom or in a live, online class). 

Hi Susan. I think blended learning needs to be an approach all adult education programs need to start considering implementing into their programs. In Texas, we ran some reports just last week that found, as they have in the past, that we received far more measurable skills gains with those students who participated in both online and face to face instruction than those that only participated in face to face. For those of us who have been doing and/or studying this for awhile this is probably not a surprise.

I do, however, feel that while a lot of our programs in Texas encourage students to participate in a distance learning curriculum along with their face to face classes, there is still need for a more intentional, blended approach. In other words, there is a strong need to integrate the two. And in doing so, teachers would base their face to face instruction on needs they see through the student work done on the distance learning curriculum. Likewise, they would assign distance learning work and practice based on that they see during face to face class. 

I do not personally know too many programs that run this type of program, but I would love to hear what others think or how blended learning has worked for them!

Colleagues, Building on Clayton Christensen’s work with blended learning and disruptive innovations, I encourage you to think out of the box for a minute. What if blended student learning was offered entirely over the Internet? That’s right. It wouldn’t blend online and in-person student learning. It would blend:

  • What teachers do best — nurture, facilitate, teach, and support — with what technology does best — process information at the speed of light.

In this dynamic blended learning model students, teachers, and parents become colleagues; join teams; learn; collaborate in subject matter, grade level, or school cohorts; and share products, performances, and results related to their personalized goals and preferences. How does this happen? Instead of integrating technology into the classroom and maintaining the status quo, we integrate learning into technology and create new and better ways of learning. The opportunities created by COVID-19 and new federal funds now set the stage for major change and improvement. What do you think?

Our program has found over the last five years, and punctuated specifically during the pandemic, that about 80 - 85% of our students do not have internet service at home, devices, or robust data plans that allow for online classes or use of online curriculum.  Our participation was decimated by the pandemic and the need to close the classrooms.  We had no more than five students who were willing and able to come pick up packets to continue working at home.  So many lost their jobs and had to close their meager phone accounts, so even that was not possible.  Blended learning for us has always been F2F group instruction in the classroom for an hour and a second or at times third hour working at computer workstations in our classrooms.  We've never had more than two or three students at a time who actually used online curriculum away from our buildings.  It has not improved during the pandemic and as of yet, we're still at less than 30% our typical enrollment compared to this time in 2019.

Are other programs finding this to be true also?

PS: I'm sure many of you are saying to yourselves, "Well, loan them hot spots and devices."  We can't.  Our sponsoring agency is the Arizona Superior Court and not a social service or educational agency.  It just isn't reasonable to get the leaders to allow us to "loan assets to criminals" as they put it.

Julie, I know many, many others can relate to your struggles. In my area, hotspot lending is often an option, but that isn't helpful when Internet service isn't available in the area where students live and work. I'm hopeful that will begin to change more rapidly.

But you introduce a great point: Blended learning isn't new. Following up a f2f lesson with computer lab time in a supplemental curriculum is commonplace. It doesn't have to rely on out-of-class technology to be considered blended. You're really helping to build students' tech skills with that extra hour of computer time. 

Thanks for sharing!