The rise of K-12 blended learning: Profiles of emerging models [Click here to download the full white paper] By Heather Staker With contributions from Eric Chan, Charter School Growth Fund Matthew Clayton, Innosight Institute Alex Hernandez, Charter School Growth Fund Michael B. Horn, Innosight Institute Katherine Mackey, Innosight Institute

Some innovations change everything. The rise of personal computers in the 1970s decimated the mini-computer industry.Computers have now become supercomputers! They are capable of generating digital currency to an extent that you can even trade with it. Bitcoin trader is one of the best platforms to trade bitcoins. We have heard plenty about fake platforms that loot your money with all great claims at the beginning. TurboTax forever changed tax accounting, and MP3s made libraries of compact discs obsolete. Even venerable public institutions like the United States Postal Service, which reported an $8.5 billion loss in 2010, are not immune. It experienced a 6 billion piece decline in mail volume that fiscal year, thanks mostly, of course, to email.

These innovations bear the traits of what Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen terms a disruptive innovation. Disruptive innovations fundamentally transform a sector by replacing expensive, complicated, and inaccessible products or services with much less expensive, simpler, and more convenient alternatives. This pattern is as common in heavy industrials as in professional services, consumer packaged goods, and nonprofits. In one of its most recent manifestations, it is little by little changing the way people think about education.

Online learning appears to be a classic disruptive innovation with the potential not just to improve the current model of education delivery, but to transform it. Online learning started by serving students for whom there was no alternative for learning. It got its start in distance-learning environments, outside of a traditional school building, and it started small. In 2000, roughly 45,000 K-12 students took an online course. But by 2010, over 4 million students were participating in some kind of formal online-learning program. The preK-12 online population is now growing by a five-year compound annual growth rate of 43 percent—and that rate is accelerating.

In true disruptive fashion, online learning is expanding beyond its roots in distance learning. Educators and entrepreneurs are increasingly creating blended-learning environments—where rather than doing online learning at a distance, students learn in an adult-supervised school environment for at least part of the time. A small but growing number of schools are starting to introduce blended learning into their core programming for mainstream students.

This paper profiles 40 organizations that are blending online learning with brick-and-mortar classrooms. These represent a range of operators, including state virtual schools, charter management organizations, individual charter schools, independent schools, districts, and private entities. The organizations profiled in this paper are not a “top 40” list. Thousands of other schools are currently participating in blended learning and may have superior programs.

Among the programs profiled in this study, several patterns are emerging, including the following:

Definition of blended learning
In a field with significant confusion around what K−12 blended learning is, the 40 programs converged under a simple, umbrella definition. First, in all of the blended programs, the students learned in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home at least some of the time. Second, in all of the cases, the students experienced online delivery with some control over the time, place, path, and/or pace. These two requirements, then, start to distinguish blended learning from other types of learning.

Blended-learning models
Blended learning is gravitating toward six models. The six distinct clusters each share design elements that differentiate them from the others in terms of teacher roles, scheduling, physical space, and delivery methods. As innovators develop new versions of blended learning, the contours of these clusters will continue to evolve.

Mapping of programs
Often blended learning is depicted as something that takes place across a linear spectrum ranging from face-to-face to online. But blended learning is better captured on a plane, rather than a line, because it varies across two dimensions. The 40 blended-learning profiles map onto a two-by-two matrix, with the X-axis representing geographic location (brick-and-mortar versus remote) and the Y-axis representing content delivery (online versus face-to-face).

Technology trends
The market of companies and organizations providing content and technology is highly fragmented and disjointed. Many of the organizations in this study hope that policymakers will introduce quality metrics that force businesses to compete on network effects, which will consolidate the industry. Otherwise, a lack of outcome-focused policy will foster a “race to the bottom,” whereby providers compete mostly on price rather than outcome. In this scenario, the marketplace could remain significantly fragmented and cluttered with low-end entrants.

Steps for success
Strong patterns emerged in the answers that blended-learning leaders gave to the questions of what policies would best unlock the potential of blended learning. Robert Sommers, former CEO of Cornerstone Charter Schools in Detroit, summed up the pervading mood when he said, “Any policy about procedure, rather than performance, undermines the creation of a child-centered system.” The operators raised a strong voice for reinventing education policy to make it output focused rather than input regulated.

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9 Responses to “The rise of K-12 blended learning: Profiles of emerging models”
eLearning Update: Report Shows Blended Examples – Digital Education – Education Week, on May 3rd, 2011 at 9:48 pm Said:
[…] new report profiles 40 examples of contemporary blended learning, classifying them by the type of approach […]

Ed is Watching » Innosight Blended Learning Encyclopedia a True Wealth of Innovative Information, on May 4th, 2011 at 11:21 am Said:
[…] transformers out there should be aware of a new Innosight Institute report by Heather Staker titled The rise of K-12 blended learning: Profiles of emerging models. Doesn’t sound that spectacularly exciting, I know, unless you have joined little education […]

Considering One-to-One: A Guide for Administrators, on May 4th, 2011 at 11:23 pm Said:
[…] There are several factors that are persuading districts to implement 1 to 1 computing programs in their schools. Among them is growing body of research showing that districts and states implementing 1 to 1 programs report higher attendance rates, fewer discipline problems and improved writing skills. A second factor is that state and local educators are looking for ways to better engage students in learning and make their school experience more relevant to the 21st century. In addition, 1 to 1 computing is expanding choices available to schools and students in how they approach teaching and learning through a range of newly emerging blended learning models. […]

Allan Nelson, on May 24th, 2011 at 9:22 pm Said:
Where can I find guidance to do a program evaluation for online learning at the elementary or secondary level? I would like to compare traditional classroom instruction with online instruction and blended instruction. I am considering a mixed quantitative and qualitative study. The instructional image will require constructivist methodology for social construction of knowledge with the educator(s) and between student peers for all learning environments. Is this a pioneering effort or is there peer-reviewed research to build upon? I am an advocate for student choice based on how they [students] want to learn and demonstrate their knowledge. We need to move from promotion to demonstration. Can you help me with a list of references for the past few years?

The Evolution of Blended Learning « EdOptions – Connect. Grow. Succeed. Blog., on June 7th, 2011 at 8:11 pm Said:
[…] learning can really mean anything. A new report, published by the Innosight Institute, titled The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning demonstrated not only the diversity in which the term blended learning is used, but also the […]

Ed is Watching » Outside the Education Box: Blended Learning Opportunities for At-Risk Teenss, on August 18th, 2011 at 2:48 pm Said:
[…] claimed. There is so much we still have to learn about online education — and even more about forms of blended, or hybrid, learning. But thankfully pioneers like Virginia’s PLCs and Colorado’s Hope and Goal are pressing […]

elizabeth, on October 11th, 2011 at 2:32 am Said:
I am personally amused by schools attempting blended models receiving state funding, and offer teachers part time wages with no benefits. This idea of mass education through growing “online” schools is a disgrace to the community. Is teaching considered a profession still in blended online schools at large? The definition of an online school is teaching via the internet by a teacher in some states. So what importance does instruction from a certified teacher have in that environment? Just asking, becasue I was recently offered this position from what is advertising itself as a high quality online school. Disappointed but please I do hope we can get over this. Thanks

Michael B. Horn, on October 11th, 2011 at 11:45 pm Said:
There is a lot in your question, and it’s dangerous to generalize, as different online schools pursue very different models with questions such as these. If you read the full report, you will see I believe that the overwhelming majority of teachers are in fact full time.

Blended learning is more than… « California Dreamin’ by Rob Darrow, on February 21st, 2012 at 6:01 pm Said:
[…] Horn and Heather Staker from the Innosight Institute completed their landmark case studies about blended learning schools across the U.S. in 2011. […]

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