Last year, in Heather Staker’s landmark paper, “The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning”, the online learning community finally found its Occam’s razor, a simple, yet effective definition of blended learning. Last year, blended learning was defined as:
Blended learning is any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.
Staker’s admission that blended learning models would continue to evolve proved true in version two of her report, entitled “Classifying K-12 Blended Learning“, co-authored by Michael Horn.
In it, blended learning’s definition has also evolved to become more succinct. It now reads:
Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace and at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home.
The updated definition is important for several reasons. First, by adding the qualifier “is a formal education program” they have separated blended learning from informal, unstructured learning such as students playing video games on their own. The second difference in this updated definition is the addition of another qualifier, “online delivery of content and instruction.” Here, they distance blended learning from supplementary online learning and tech rich classrooms. From the first computer labs in the 1980s, teachers have utilized software and online resources to supplement their curriculum. However, in no way could you classify these exercises, whether random or regularly scheduled, as online learning. The dividing line, as Heather states in her definition of Technology Rich Instruction, is student control of time, place, path and/or pace.
In all, the new blended learning definition now more clearly separates supplementary, tech rich activities from true online learning.
More to follow.