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Research on Benefits of Blended Learning Consistently Inconclusive

Research On Benefits of Blended Learning for K-12 Students  Consistently Inconclusive

Research consistently fails to provide conclusive results on the benefits of blended learning for K-12 students, according to Education Week.

The challenge in gathering research on blended learning is in part because blended learning is hard to narrowly define. According to TeachThought.com,"the Sloan Consortium defined hybrid courses as those that 'integrate online with traditional face-to-face class activities in a planned, pedagogically valuable manner.'" 

Simply, blended learning is using online technology to supplement learning, but the implementation is what makes arriving at a concrete, measurable definition complex.

According to the article by Education Week, 'Whether blended learning works or not is a frustrating question because the answer is always going to be 'it depends,''said Michael B. Horn, a co-founder and the executive director for education at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, in San Mateo, Calif., which studies technology in society."

Horn claims that the success of blended learning depends on how its implemented and how well teachers are trained.

As a result, gathering significant research is a daunting and unsatisfactory task. In a 2014 report from the Michael and Susan Dell foundation, a single model was used by studying 13 low-income charter schools that all featured a "'rotation' model of blended learning, in which students move among online and in-person stations for different parts of the school day," according to the article.

But despite all using blended learning, each school used a unique implementation.

In some cases, teachers had a big say in which programs students used at different times, while in others, in-person teachers had little connection to the separate labs where students worked online. In still others, self-directed online programs were more likely to be an enrichment for advanced students, while other schools focused on remediation for struggling students.

Because of this variation in different schools using different programs, drawing a final conclusion on whether blended learning works is impossible.

"'The answer right now is still no," said Sarojani S. Mohammed, a partner and lead researcher at The Learning Accelerator, a Cupertino, Calif., nonprofit group that helps districts implement blended-learning strategies," on whether or not blended learning can be deemed unquestionably successful in teaching K-12 students, according to the article.

Ms. Mohammed offered her advice to educators through Education Week: "School leaders should not think of online or blended learning as fundamentally different from traditional classroom learning, Ms. Mohammed said. The research suggests they should instead implement it when they 'want to solve specific instructional problems,' she observed."

Read the full article and comment below. Please note that Education Week articles are available on a tiered subscription model.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education Week Contributor

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