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eLearning Update: Report Shows Blended Examples

A new report profiles 40 examples of contemporary blended learning, classifying them by the type of approach they use and attempting to show how each has reduced cost and boosted academic achievement.

The white paper, authored by Heather Staker and released as a collaboration between the Innosight Institute and Charter School Growth Fund, builds upon another document released by Staker and Michael B. Horn in January that, among other things, gave a definition of the widely variant field of blended learning, and broke it into six subtypes.

Moreover, the newer whitepaper contends that all blended learning programs can be mapped on a plane, where the x axis runs on the spectrum from fully brick-and-mortar to fully remote instruction, and the y axis from fully online to fully face-to-face content delivery.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based Innosight Institute is a nonprofit devoted to promoting the theory of disruptive innovation. That theory holds that large-scale reform to transform a complicated and unproductive sector begins with reform that serves those who have no alternative, with others adapting it slowly until it gains more acceptance and becomes a norm. The Charter School Growth fund is a Bloomfield, Colo.-based nonprofit venture capital fund which invests in what it considers the nation's highest-performing charter schools to expand their impact on underserved student populations.

In addition to explaining and codifying the growing trend of blended education, the report identifies its potential problems. It says without policymakers intervening to craft standards of quality for blended course materials, a fragmented market will result, creating competition on the basis of providing the cheapest service rather than the best. It also stresses that blended learning models that center on procedures rather than outcomes will undermine potential benefits that include the ability to break barriers of time and place.

The report marks the continuing construction of a knowledge base for the still-nascent blended learning field. But since it classifies blended learning is the kind of disruptive innovation the Innosight Institute was constructed to promote, it would be hard to classify it as unbiased research. And while the white paper argues that careful attention from policymakers is needed to shepherd blended learning, it's unclear whether policymakers will see such a report as proof of blended learning's legitimacy.

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