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Christensen Institute Offers Database to Compare School Blended Learning Models

By guest blogger Leo Doran

In an effort to help schools explore blended learning, a think tank has created an updated online nationwide database of schools using the strategy, in the hope that educators will communicate and learn from one another.

The Clayton Christensen Institute's education program recently revamped and expanded the site, called the Blended Learning Universe, with new features that allow for customizable searches and the ability to track changes over time. The nonprofit institute has long pushed for schools to use technology to improve teaching and learning.

In its research, the group has identified seven distinct blended learning models favored by schools.The website allows for advanced searches of schools based on what the institute's director of education research, Julia Fisher, calls the organization's "taxonomy" of blended programs.

In addition, the new advanced search feature allows for searches based on school location, demographics, grade level, academic subject, and the type of ed-tech product utilized. Schools create their own "profiles" within the site and are encouraged to update them regularly. The database allows users to track changes and trends in schools' blended-learning policies, academic performance, and their use of specific vendors.

Fisher says that it's important that schools not approach blended learning as a one-time "off-the-shelf" fix, but rather as an "iterative process" in which schools are "making changes to reflect the reality on the ground."

District officials who use the site will be able to see which vendors their peers have chosen.

Fisher cautioned that schools that succeed in using blended learning do so by "being very deliberate about re-assessing their instructional model" long before making ed tech purchases.

It's important that schools not "go blended for blended's sake," but rather identify and target an acute problem that a blended learning system can address, she said.

Because schools self-report information, it's unclear if they will be willing to share information on their stumbles with certain ed-tech products, or update information on academic outcomes, particularly if the results are bad.

Fisher said that the site will encourage the sharing of information on blended learning practices among schools in the same geographic areas, leading to clusters of schools working together.

The database also features a large repository of resources and research to help guide school officials in improving blended learning.

Moving forward, the institute plans to link information on schools' experiences with different blended learning models to research on those stategies, Fisher said.

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