I’m teaching another online course on blended learning now, and I always love the questions, even the doubts, posed by participants. There are four common concerns or questions that arise when starting to explore the possibilities for different forms of blended learning. The rotation model options are least resisted, but discussing the flex model, a-la-carte, and virtual enhanced models often lead to the following good, important, even essential questions about the benefits and limitations of blended learning.
1) How do you find the time to do this?
2) What about behavior and attention problems?
3) What about students without technology access outside of school?
4) Will this make teachers obsolete or less valuable?
It is important to work through such questions and not dismiss them. This will take time, practice, and often some good and substantive research and discussion. In response to each of these questions, I contend that there are four important related questions. Each one corresponds to the above questions.
1) How can blended learning free up teachers to do that which learners most need from them (namely coaching, mentoring, etc.)?
2) How can blended learning empower students to develop more self-regulation? How can we design the lessons in a way to mitigate against learning distractions?
3) How can we leverage blended learning to increase access and opportunity for all students?
4) Like question 2, how can blended learning help take away lower level tasks from teachers, empower them with better data to help learners, and enable them to create an even more personal and individualized learning experience for each student?
These questions highlight the fact that blended learning is not one thing. Each model can be applied, designed, and imagined in many ways; and these last four questions help us start to do that good and important design thinking work needed to use blended learning for the good of learners and learning organizations. We want to leverage blended learning so that it increases student engagement, improves or enhances student learning, and/or increases flexibility/access/opportunity for learners; and that is unlikely to happen by chance.