New iNACOL report shows blended learning moving from "promising practices" to "best practices"

Earlier today iNACOL released a new report—Blended Learning: The Evolution of Online and Face-to-Face Education from 2008-2015. The paper reviews—as the title suggests—the growth and change of blended learning over the last seven years or so. My views on the report are biased for several reasons. The Evergreen team worked with iNACOL back in 2008 to publish the original version, and we contributed to the updated report as well. In addition, several of the examples in the updated paper build on the “Proof Points” research that we and the Christensen Institute have done. We are glad to see “proof points” district programs discussed including Randolph Central School District, Spring City Elementary Hybrid Learning School, Innovations Early College High School, and Spokane Public Schools. Other highlighted programs include Nolan Elementary-Middle School in Detroit, Commonwealth Connections Academy in Pennsylvania, and The Nevada Learning Academy at Clark County School District.

Blended learning has grown remarkably since the original report was published, and the updated paper reflects these changes well. In particular, there is much more to say about “lessons learned” now that some blended schools are into their second decade of operations, and others are newer but have built on the experiential foundations of their predecessors. The paper highlights and discusses four main lessons:

  1. Create a school culture and climate dedicated to continuous improvement.
  2. Define blended learning goals and benefits.
  3. Examine and update professional development needs.
  4. Address both system- and school-level barriers to implementation.


Perhaps the most important development in this new report has to do with the growth in the field over the last seven years. Back in 2007 we purposely called the series “Promising Practices” because there wasn’t yet enough consistency among programs, or strong evidence of success, to call our findings “best practices.” In 2015, although the field is still evolving, much more evidence exists about what works and why. iNACOL’s updated report provides highly constructive accounts of these successful schools, and the best practices that they are implementing.