Wireless Generation and blended learning policy recommendations

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I had the pleasure of hearing Larry Berger, the CEO of Wireless Generation, speak at a Donnell-Kay Foundation Hot Lunch last week. In an interesting Q & A session at the end of his talk, someone asked for his thoughts on policy changes that could positively influence the growth of blended learning. We addressed blended learning for the first time in Keeping Pace 2010, and specifically discussed policy recommendations on p. 44. One of the key questions for policy makers today is whether or not blended learning should be treated separately from online learning, to be defined and perhaps regulated as its own category in terms of data tracking, instructional requirements, and other regulation. We believe that blended learning should not be considered a separate category for regulatory purposes, and instead should be considered a subset of online learning or a subset of face-to-face learning, and should be treated as such.

However, there are ways that policy makers can support the growth of blended learning. Mr. Berger’s top answers were as follows:

    • Student:Teacher ratios:  States need flexibility in regard to student:teacher ratios. Finland is often ranked the best education system in the world, and they have a 45:1 ratio. A great teacher can teach 45 students better than a poor teacher can teach 20 students; as you reduce ratios, you invite lower-skilled teachers into the workforce.
    • Invest in technology: Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation and other federally funded programs are good and necessary, but it is time for the education field to see technology development as a critical investment. On average, education only invests 1% in technology development; in most industries it is 4-6%.
    • Seat-time requirements: It’s time to focus on mastery as a definition of success rather than seat-time.
    • Common core standards: Investing in national standards will ensure our students are learning the same material, while making it much easier to track changes and keep online content up to date.

These ideas are consistent with our view that education will benefit from moving from inputs-based measures of quality toward measuring outputs in terms of student opportunities and achievement.

As we approach what is likely to be a heated debate around the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, what should our priorities be? What should we be fighting for?