Supporting Blended Learning Success

Erin Earnst develops and facilitates online professional development for EDC's EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO) program. A former elementary and middle school teacher, Erin has also designed and delivered online and face-to-face workshops focused on improving student learning through the use of technology for Pearson, Scholastic, and Tom Snyder Productions. In this post, written in honor of Digital Learning Day (February 5, 2014), Erin shares some lessons learned from her work to support teachers in using blended learning strategies to enhance students' learning.

How can teachers implement blended learning—in which students learn at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction—in ways that improve student learning? Over the past three years, EDC’s EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO) program has helped hundreds of teachers, ranging from elementary to college level to adult basic education, explore this question as they draw upon blended learning strategies in their classrooms. As a member of the ETLO team, I have worked with school districts and colleges throughout the United States to provide online and blended professional development to support their blended learning initiatives. Through this work, I have found that three key elements are important to a successful transition to blended learning.

The first key element of blended learning success is understanding the purpose for moving to the blended learning model. In ETLO’s online course, Teaching Students in Blended Classrooms, participants begin by examining the benefits of blended learning and exploring the various implementation models. The often misunderstood blended learning terms such as the “flipped classroom” and “rotation model” are explored as participants start to develop their own plan for moving towards a blended learning environment. Understanding the purpose of blended learning first provides a strong foundation to build a successful blended learning implementation plan.

A second element of blended learning success is providing educators with the professional support and time to identify the instructional shifts that need to take place. When reflecting in her learning in ETLO’s blended learning online course, a participant shared with me that, "This was the first time I was given the charge to sit down and think through how I might translate some of the traditional face-to-face teaching into an online experience. It required me to consider which lesson components would be best left to a traditional delivery, and which components would benefit from the addition of multimedia and an online environment.” Providing educators with the support to identify and plan for these instructional shifts is another essential element of blended learning success.

A third essential element of blended learning success is providing an opportunity for educators to experience blended learning from a student’s point-of-view. Participants in ETLO’s online professional development courses participate in facilitated online discussions and web-based and multimedia activities. Being an active participant in these types of learning experiences that may be a part of their blended learning plan helps inform and enrich the development of blended learning experience for their students.

Through identifying the purpose of the transition towards blended learning, having the professional support and time to explore the instructions shifts, and experiencing elements of blended learning from the perspective of a student, educators can make the transition to successful blended learning.