The future is blended

Will 2012 be the year where we see blended learning become more commonly accepted?

The recent announcement from MIT about the development of its MITx education initiative certainly is a step in the right direction. MITx is designed to enhance the educational experience of its on-campus students, offering them online tools that supplement and enrich their classroom and laboratory experiences.

MIT’s online learning initiative is led by MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif who says "Students worldwide are increasingly supplementing their classroom education with a variety of online tools." No surprises there – in almost every school I visit I see evidence of students incorporating online content in their work, or using online tools and applications to publish and share what they do – what's happening at MIT seems to be a natural way forward.

A recent eSchool news article titled Some see blended as the future of education reports how in the US an increasing number of school districts are embracing digital learning as the next step in improving education.

All of this is very promising, but at the eSchool News report emphasises, the blended learning future won't just happen without some changes to the policy environment in which schools operate. They report that a number of stakeholder groups are hoping to guide policy makers in the US in their efforts to implement state-level online learning policies, and reference the report titled Digital Learning Now!” (PDF download) that I blogged about back in 2010 when that report was released.

This is true in New Zealand as well. With the ongoing growth of the Virtual Learning Network, and of the regional Urban Fibre Networks, not to mention the promise of a Network for Learning, the need for our Ministry officials to be focused on enabling policy work is now critical if we're to avoid the situation where the technology exists, but schools/teachers are prevented from using it to its full potential because of a lack of enabling policy, or worse, policy that doesn't cater from the new environments and actually becomes a block to progress being made. 

So much of our existing policy has been designed for the face to face world in the "tomorrow's schools" mindset (pre-WWW days), and is no longer appropriate to serve the needs of a networked schools, blended learning future for education. 

The following list of areas I believe need to be addressed is an updated version of a list I originally compiled back in 2007 – just to keep the ball rolling…

Issues to be addressed before the use of distance/eLearning methodologies can become truly systemic in NZ include:

Policy issues

  • How can student funding be shared between schools?
  • How can staffing, including management units, be shared among schools
  • What evidence needs to be gathered to demonstrate the worth of this?
  • How do we incentivise schools to collaborate and engage in a 'networked' future in the post-tomorrow's schools environment of self-management and competitiveness? 

Technology issues

  • Connectivity and interoperability – who sets the standards?
  • Networks – access, speed, data costs etc.
  • Services  – what is required? Centralised vs local provision and choice? Cloud-based or hosted?
  • Software licensing, updates and maintenance issues?

Curriculum issues

  • Assessment – developing consistency in approach
  • Reporting – enabling a unified student report from several ‘schools’ etc
  • Modularisation – a different view of ‘course’
  • RPL – includes recognising the value of informal learning

Staffing issues

  • Need to create more flexibility in recognising teacher roles: e-teachers, m-teachers, c-teachers,
  • How to involve those with real subject expertise as mentors, hotseats etc.
  • Remuneration processes for online teachers,
  • Recognition of online teaching roles for teacher registration

Pedagogical issues

  • “personalisation” – what does it mean? How do we make it happen?
  • Tyrany of assessment practices that mitigate against 'open' classroom practice and constructivist or connectivist learning theory.
  • Staff training – how to train a large group of the teaching force in these new approaches?

Leadership and coordination issues

  • where does the leadership come from?
  • What form should leadership take?
  • What coordination is required nationally, locally etc?

Learning Resource issues

  • How best to provide resources for learning to support teachers in this environment
  • learning objects, repositories, search tools – who provides them, who manages them etc?
  • how to cater for user-generated resources?
  • Copyright and IP issues – how are these to be managed? CC vs. ©

Quality issues

  • What is best practice?
  • What are quality indicators?

(Image from eSchool News )




3 thoughts on “The future is blended

  1. Can you give a bit more of a definition of the three types of teachers that you mention, e-teachers, m-teachers and c-teachers,

  2. In time think all of the old-timers will buy into technology and use it a lot more.  I get the impression that these old farts are so behind that they stick with their old ways to avoid embarrassment.

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