Blended Learning: It’s More than Just Technology

Only four years ago, Disrupting Class introduced many of us to blended learning—defined generally as a student learning environment which combines online digital content with teacher-led instruction. If that definition sounds vague, it’s because…well, it is vague. And you would not be alone in thinking that. Educators, researchers, foundations, and other very smart people have varying ideas on both what blended learning looks like, and how it should look.

Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn, the authors of Disrupting Class, are two of those very smart people. Their non-partisan think tank, the Christensen Institute, is a leading thought partner in defining the present and imagining the future of blended learning. Of course, the Christensen Institute is not the only place that Horn continues to contribute to the field. Recently, he and Heather Staker shared some lessons learned and key takeaways for educators in their new book, Blended, which is worth checking out not only for Horn and Staker’s expertise, but also because it addresses a very real need among a growing number of schools looking to go blended.

As we travel the country supporting and learning from schools, we’re finding that schools—including expanded learning time schools—are increasingly intrigued by the potential benefits that can be gained from going blended. Yet blended learning, just like expanded learning time, is a strategy. In other words, it’s not just having more technology and/or more time, but rather how you use them that lead to results. Just as many people have asked us, ‘Well, how do you use time?’ Blended answers a lot of the questions about how to go blended. Just as Disrupting Class gave us a vision of blended learning, Blended gives us concrete practices to turn that vision into reality.

Like Horn and Staker, we’re also building on the growing set of blended learning resources and tools directed at educators. Later this month, we will be releasing our own blended learning implementation guide, Supporting Success through Time and Technology, which profiles six expanded learning time blended learning schools across the country and provides a detailed seven-step process for educators to implement blended learning in their own schools. We encourage anyone who is interested in blended learning to check out this guide (once it’s released); the meantime, pick up a copy of Blended