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The Blended Learning Debate: Is It Just Hype?

Blended learning is sometimes lauded as the great new savior of education. However, is this instructional method really the next great step for education or is it all just hype?

“It is one of the central features of modern school reform, with proponents proclaiming that it helps personalize education, cuts costs and allows students to be more productive,” reports Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post.

“Sounds great, doesn’t it? But is it? Here’s a look at the hype, the harm and the hope of blended learning, by Phil McRae is an executive staff officer with the Alberta Teachers’ Association and adjunct professor within the faculty of education at the University of Alberta, where he earned his PhD,” Strauss continued as she introduced McRae's post on blended learning.

McRae explores the myths of blended learning as well as the origins of the term, which he says could be placed with an Atlanta-based computer training business. McRae sites Dr. Norm Friesen frequently throughout his post. Friesen’s comments support the fact that blended learning fits well with the “hybrid face-to-face” and digital experiences that students encounter in K-12 schools.”

The hype comes from the idea that blended learning will enhance the idea of personalized learning, according to McRae’s statements. He believes that these ideas do not fit hand-in-hand like many are trying to promote.

“The current hype around blended learning models, especially in the United States, is that they bring to life personalized learning for each and every child,” said McRae in his post.

“Personalized learning, as promoted under a new canopy of blended learning, is neither a pedagogic theory nor a coherent set of learning approaches, regardless of the proposed models. In fact, personalized learning is an idea struggling for an identity (McRae 2014, 2010).”

McRae continued by exploring the adaptive learning systems that are being pushed by many ed-tech software companies. He argues that the adaptive learning systems hinder students from building human relationships.

“These adaptive learning systems (the new teaching machines) do not build more resilient, creative, entrepreneurial or empathetic citizens through their individualized, standardized, linear and mechanical software algorithms,” said McRae.

“On the contrary, they diminish the many opportunities for human relationships to flourish, which is a hallmark of high-quality learning environments.”

McRae’s comments on blended learning add a bit of contrast to much of the pro blended learning articles. The question on whether or not blended learning is a viable solution is still up in the air.

What do you think? Read the full story and comment below.

Article by Navindra Persaud, Education World Contributor

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