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Learning & Development Blog

The New Face of Blended Learning

I've been creating blended learning solutions for years that look something like this:

My model needs a face lift.

I came across a couple of resources that have me thinking about it. Here’s the gist:

Disruptive innovation (termed as such by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen) brings simplicity, accessibility, affordability, and customization to complicated, expensive, and standardized products and services. Disruptive innovation fundamentally transforms the landscape rather than merely sustain the conventional structure.

Blended learning has this transformative potential and is etched in my brain like this:


I imagine tossing my model in the air and watching where the pieces land. My point here is that the pieces are valid; it’s just that blended learning is not linear or boxed up. Plus, I need to make space for new components. (Segue to innovation …)


I have to incorporate social learning.

  1. To illustrate why it matters.
  2. To illustrate how it fits in.

Also, I need to freshen up the blend.

  1. To leverage compelling research findings.
  2. To incorporate new capabilities that exist because of new technologies.

In the Innosight Institute May 2011 report titled The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning, the authors suggest that the technologies employed by these models are disrupting education in ways unlike earlier technologies.

Calculators, overhead projectors, electronic whiteboards, and online textbooks all enhanced the classroom as add-ons, but the technology sustained rather than transformed the conventional structure. Even the aggressive deployment of computers in schools has not transformed classrooms. ... In contrast, as countless people have noted, online learning has the potential to be a disruptive force that will transform … schools into a new model that is student-centric, highly personalized for each learner, and more productive.

According to the report authors, six models are emerging to which blended learning is gravitating. Here is a summary of the models.

Face-to-Face Driver – Instruction takes place in a traditional classroom; the teacher employs online learning for remediation or supplemental instruction

Rotation – Instruction is split between learning online and sitting in a classroom; the teacher oversees the online work

Flex – Instruction is delivered primarily through an online platform; teachers provide onsite support

Online Lab – Instruction is online, but delivered in a physical classroom or computer lab

Self-Blend – Students choose on their own which courses they take online to supplement their schools' offerings

Online Driver – Instructions is primarily online and physical facilities are used only for extracurricular activities, required check-ins, or similar purposes

As I read the report, I thought: “Wow, six new models. This is great. And, technology IS a cornerstone.”

A New Blended Learning has the potential to be the disruptive innovation that transforms our learning environments into new models that are learner-centric, highly-personalized for each learner, and far more productive. As instructional designers, we have the potential to be the disruptive force.

Let’s put our heads together …

How will we implement new models and technologies in ways that transform the landscape rather than merely sustain the conventional structure?

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