Additional key findings from the Dell Blended Learning Report

The Dell Blended Learning Report that I discussed previously contains some very useful insights around the question “To what extent is each of the blended learning models being implemented as intended?” These findings include the following:

  • The implementations evolved during the research period, making summative evaluation difficult. This is a similar finding to the SRI study of Khan Academy.  For example, “sites continued to experiment with different online instructional software in ELA and math. They continually refined their models to best serve teachers and students, which included searching for and piloting different online programs.”
  • “Unreliable Internet connectivity, inadequate bandwidth, and problems with software programs hindered many schools’ ability to implement” blended learning.
  • Some non-technological aspects of the instructional approach were beneficial. For example, “According to a majority of the administrators, teachers, and lab monitors interviewed, weekly goal-setting helped students to become more invested in their learning and to see both the rewards of meeting goals and consequences of failing to meet them.”

These findings mirror other reports and Evergreen’s experience working with schools that are implementing blended learning. Given that these issues (both positive and negative) are affecting charter schools with a focus on blended learning, one can expect that they would affect non-charter public schools that are transitioning to blended learning even more.

In addition to the findings listed above, a key paragraph describes an often overlooked aspect of content and technology selection.

“How assignable online instruction programs are may limit their integration with the classroom curriculum. Many sites used online instructional programs such as DreamBox and Istation that are adaptive and enable students to work at their own pace on content that is appropriately challenging. Given this self-pacing, students may not be working on the same topic at the same time or at the same time the teacher is presenting the material in the classroom. Many of the programs do not allow teachers or administrators to assign the online content for students. The importance of program assignability to the implementation of a blended learning model depends on the role of online instruction in the model. That is, assignability is less critical if the online programs are being used for remediation by allowing students to proceed through the content at their own pace and level as they fill in gaps in their knowledge as needed. Assignability is more critical when teachers are using the online instruction as an integrated supplemental activity to directly support the lessons they are presenting in the classroom.”

Schools often begin their journey into blended learning by selecting content before they fully understand what they are trying to achieve with their blended program. The above paragraph describes why having a firm understanding of the school or system’s goals is so important, and also why selecting content requires much more than simply determining alignment with standards.

In the previous blog post I expressed some disappointment at the lack of outcomes data in the study, but these and other implementation lessons throughout the report are extremely valuable for any administrator who is considering implementing blended learning.