Should blended learning be treated differently from online learning in policy?

States around the country are busy examining potential changes to online learning laws. In Keeping Pace 2010 we examined blended learning for the first time, and raised a key issue—should blended learning be a policy consideration, and if so how? There are at least two ways to approach this question. The first is to explore whether blended learning can be defined and perhaps regulated as its own category in terms of data tracking, instructional requirements, and other regulations.

Our sense is that the answer is no, that blended should be considered a subset of online, and that in most cases blended schools are either close enough to online or face-to-face that a separate category does not make sense. If one is inclined to argue that all learning should be moving to a mastery or competency-based model of accountability, blended learning fits that model nicely.

The second issue is whether blended learning should be encouraged and supported; we believe that it should be. In practice, supporting blended learning through policy is very much like supporting online learning through policy: it entails removing line-of-sight, seat-time, and student-teacher ratio requirements; allowing funding to flow to digital materials and instruction instead of being tied to textbooks; and generally moving from inputs-based measures of quality toward measuring outputs in terms of student opportunities and achievement. In addition, blended learning outcomes should be assessed based on quantitative, data-driven evaluations.

This discussion was pulled directly from Keeping Pace 2010. While we still believe this is the right approach, we are interested in your thoughts. Do you agree? Are you seeing blended learning included in policy discussions in your districts / states? We would like to see examples, and hear about your experiences.