Blended Learning — #EdChat Summary: 11-29-11

Topic: Is blended coursework, a combination of face-to face class time and online study, a viable option for secondary education?

I had a little catch-up work to do before this week’s discussion, mostly because I had no idea what “blended coursework” (or Blended Learning, BL, as it was referred to by most) actually was.  So, assuming that you might be a newbie like I was, let’s do a quick review of some definitions.

Blended learning (also referred to as hybrid learning, but that’s less common nowadays) is education by way of a combination of in-person classes and online coursework.  It differs from distance learning in that the students do meet with their professor in person, regularly.  And it differs from “standard learning” (my own silly term) in that not all required coursework is done in the classroom with the instructor.

“Now, hold on a second,” you might be thinking.  “That sounds a lot like what my kids already do at school!  They go into school to work with their teachers all day and then they come home and do homework on the computer.”  And I must admit, you have a point.  Indeed, it would be difficult to imagine a school that doesn’t make some use of the massive educational resource that is the internet for high-school and college students.

But the question is: should we increase our reliance on the internet?  Can some classroom time be ditched in favor of online education?  And, of course, would the change be a positive one?

The question is a timely one.  More and more schools are taking advantage of the plethora of free or very cheap resources available online as a way to maintain educational standards while cutting education budgets.  Others are embracing technology simply because they recognize the awesome potential of it.  And then, of course, there are those that are reluctant to change.

It was a lively discussion – and one that teachers, administrators, and education bloggers will be continuing for years and years to come.

Main themes from the discussion:

  • We already do this.  There were a good number of teachers who pointed out, quite rightly, that they already take a blended approach to their classrooms.  They have “flipped” their classrooms to allow students to work on what is traditionally homework in class and watch/listen to lectures at home.  Or they have incorporated wikis and blogs into the curriculum.  Or they have made assignments and notes available online, and require their students to turn things in via email or a drop box.  Truly, the possibilities are limitless, and what’s nice is that you can choose what you want to “outsource” and what you want to keep old-school.  It’s very adaptable.
  • What do we lose with less face-to-face interaction?  This question was brought up later in the discussion by David Wees, but I put it towards the top because I think it merits a prominent place in our thoughts as we head down this road.  It is undeniable that face-to-face interaction is a big part of education.  I remember being told by my parents (both teachers) that college was mostly about interacting with a lot of smart people; not so much about classes.  Preserving that sense of community in school is important, and we need to take care not rely too heavily on technology and forget what people add to the equation.
  • What do we gain with blended learning?  On the other hand, using the internet and other technology for educational purposes carries with it some undeniable and awe-inspiring advantages.  For one thing, you get to draw from a much larger pool of knowledge when you’re not limited to just what the teacher knows.  Students also can work at their own pace more, push themselves in more diverse directions, and collaborate with people that would normally be totally left out.  Truly, the possibilities are endless, and I highly recommend going through the archive of the conversation (when it’s up) and reading all of them, as most people in the conversation chose to focus on the positives.
  • What about the underprivileged?  Of course, no #edchat would be complete without a discussion of what to do for those students without access to the internet or a computer at home.  This is a theme that comes up week after week in #edchat, and while I don’t think it is an issue that can or should be easily or quickly dismissed, it is also one that I think is partially irrelevant.  Should we limit progress until everyone can join?  If so, that puts serious restrictions on what progress can be made.  Also, several people brought up some good ideas for what to do to help those underprivileged students, and I have copied several of them in the section below.

My favorite tweets from the discussion:

delta_dc What problem is blended learning trying to solve? And how can we be sure that it is solving it?

Trinity6215 @cybraryman1 My MS child has online learning. She enjoys the net, but LOVES her teachers.

kstansberry Un-blended learning is audacious in the assumption that the teacher/school/textbook is the font of all knowledge.

simplyserina Blended learning helps to cultivate and teach digital literacy, which is essential in the now and future workplace.

delta_dc Isn’t all learning blended? A combination of teacher-student mentorship, student-student interaction, and student self-study?

davidwees I think we need to remember: no one model works for everyone.

littleacorn72 I think that BL is a spectrum and teachers can choose what works best for their students/class.

ShellTerrell @MikeGwaltney @davidwees It all boils down to the training. Teachers who understand how to implement will do it effectively.

davidwees @blairteach Almost everyone in #edchat is already talking about what we gain, and very little discussion about what we lose.

MertonTech From participating in #edchat for a long time now, some concepts are echoed almost every time. Like tech access for the poor.

MertonTech Blended learning can happen anywhere, including 100% contained in the classroom.

pamwesely What if schools (and students at home) don’t have reliable online access? What are options to help with blending?

mikevigilant Until everyone in the district has internet access at home, I just think this whole blended/flipped/whatever is a nonstarter for us.

cybraryman1 @mikevigilant I know it is not the panacea but students can work with others who have access. Wish all had access.

bwasson @mikevigilant I never had a newspaper subscription at home, but still had to do multiple weekly current events assignments using one.

blairteach This whole notion of not doing something until everyone can do it disturbs me. Get the crowd moving and pick up the stragglers.

mr_isaacs Seems like every #edchat topic has the caveat that teacher’s must be willing to give up some control. I see a pattern.

ShellTerrell One of the easiest blended learning tools I show teachers to use that has a lot of buy-in are wikis!

cybraryman1 My Blended Learning (BL) page:

TestSoup @mikevigilant I know the blogger Iserotope teaches underprivileged students and uses a BL model. JJW

CTuckerEnglish I blog about my experiences teaching BL & have excerpts from my book (The Perfect Blend) — out in June

To follow the complete discussion, look for the full archive here.  They’re usually posted up by the end of the week.

Looking to discuss #edtech in depth? Check out the LinkedIn group: Edutech Trends, Visions, Passions.

New to #EdChat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter.  Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts:

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.

What do you think? Leave a comment! We would love to hear from you.

2 Responses to Blended Learning — #EdChat Summary: 11-29-11
  1. Pingback: Is blended coursework, a combination of face-to face class time and online study, a viable option for secondary education? « Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

  2. Pingback: What changes could be made to the present management structure of ed to make it more effective for educators? « Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

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