New Research from SRI International Offers Insights into Blended Learning Models | SRI International

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New Research from SRI International Offers Insights into Blended Learning Models

MENLO PARK, Calif.June 3, 2014 – Blended learning models— the combination of teacher-led and online instruction—may improve education by enhancing personalized learning in schools and freeing teachers to focus on helping all students develop higher-level learning skills. However, successful implementation of these models requires adequate infrastructure, reliable technology, quality software content, and changes in classroom management practices, according to new research by SRI International.

teacher talks with students using computers“The explosion of digital content and resources available for teachers and schools is driving changes in practice, and there’s no question that more online resources are going to be used in K-12 classrooms,” said Robert Murphy, Ph.D., director of evaluation research for the Center for Technology in Learning, SRI Education. “But our findings make clear there are foundational issues to be addressed for blended learning to be successful in improving teaching and learning.”

With funding from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, SRI Education researchers studied blended learning models during the 2011-2012 school year in five charter management organizations and 12 schools in California and Louisiana. The Blended Learning Report details findings in four key areas:

  • Elements of software design: The capability for teachers to assign individual modules of online instruction was essential for integration with classroom curriculum. The quality of software programs available varied by subject, and several factors limited teachers’ use of data from online systems to make informed instructional decisions.
  • Perceived benefits to teaching and learning: Blended learning models enabled personalized learning through self-paced programs, adaptive online instructional content, and facilitation of small-group instruction for students with the greatest academic needs.
  • Student productivity: Strong classroom management practices and single sign-on portals were critical for ensuring student productivity with online programs, particularly with younger children.
  • Infrastructure and technology: Unreliable Internet connectivity, inadequate bandwidth, and technical problems with software programs impacted the use of blended learning to some extent in all schools participating in the research.

The report also outlines implications for practice and recommendations for future research. As schools gain more experience and continue to evolve their blended learning models, several best practices are emerging for educators to consider when implementing blended models of instruction:

  • Self-directed learning habits, such as setting weekly goals, must be established and are crucial for students to fully benefit from blended learning.
  • For the most productive use of instructional time in blended learning rotational models, routines must be established to help students efficiently transition between instructor-led and online learning.
  • Online learning coordinators are critical to district- and school-wide adoptions of blended learning to free administrators and teachers from the logistical burdens of implementation.
  • Administrators and teachers need to be prepared to respond to technology glitches by enlisting onsite IT support and having alternative instructional plans ready when online access is unavailable.

“The implementation of blended learning models is still in its infancy. While there has been limited comprehensive research up to this point, we have learned that there is not a single blended learning solution that works for all schools,” said Murphy. “It’s a time of experimentation and development, and we’re just beginning to understand which program design elements and student supports are needed in blended learning models to help all students succeed. Blended learning is not a one-size-fits-all solution.”