New blended learning definition

The Innosight Institute has released a new white paper on blended learning, updating the original definition and taxonomy. From the announcement of the release of Classifying K-12 Blended Learning:

"This white paper introduces a refined definition and description of models based on feedback from over 80 organizations and 100 educators who commented on the initial research.

The updated taxonomy includes a number of changes. It eliminates two of the six blended-learning models—Face-to-Face Driver and Online Lab—because they duplicate other models and make the categories too rigid to accommodate the diversity of blended-learning models in practice. The new definitions are intentionally broad and open, rather than specific. They set forth basic patterns that are emerging, but avoid setting tight parameters on how a model “has to be.” The new taxonomy also identifies four sub-categories that are appearing, namely the Station-Rotation, Lab-Rotation, Flipped-Classroom, and Individual-Rotation models.”

The new definition of blended learning is:

“Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace and at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home.”

While the taxonomy and examples of programs are valuable, we have always felt that the most important element of Innosight’s work is the definition of blended learning. A critical element is what is not included: layering of educational technology on an existing classroom, without changing the instructional model. To us, the student control is the most important part of the definition, because if students don’t have some control over time/place/path/pace, then it’s likely that the instructional model has not really changed.

Also notable is that flipped classrooms—among the buzzwords of the moment—do not necessarily entail student control, which means that they do necessarily meet the definition of blended learning. Some excellent examples of flipped classrooms exist, and they are changing instruction. But at the other end of the spectrum, we also see teachers assigning YouTube videos instead of reading for homework and thinking they have flipped their classrooms. Have they? I don’t know, because I don’t know the formal definition of a flipped classroom. But I know that example is not blended learning under the definition that we choose to use. The definition is valuable because we can explain that to teachers and administrators, explain why, and subsequently explain what changes would truly be blended learning.