Blended Learning and Expanded Learning Time: What We Believe, What We Know, and What We Hope

This blog is written by Roy Chan, Director, Effective Practices, and author of our new blended learning report, Supporting Student Success through Time and Technology: A Step-by-Step Guide to Successfully Implement Blended Learning and Expanded Learning Time at Your School, to be released Friday, January 23, 2015.

We believe change is needed in our schools. Not just for the sake of change, but to prepare students for a world that is increasingly competitive: in colleges, in the 21st century workplace, and in the global economy. We believe expanded learning time is the vehicle for that change.

We know that additional time alone does not guarantee success. We know that our students need more time, but we also know that the impact of time on learning is ultimately shaped by educators—and to a smaller extent the various tools and structures at their disposal. We know that this is no simple task.

We know that educators are increasingly interested in technology, and more specifically blended learning, to support—not replace—them in their increasingly challenging responsibilities. We know that blended learning offers students an opportunity to own and personalize their education through a combination of teacher-led instruction and online digital content. In regards to the latter, we know that online digital content is a tool. We know that the ed tech market has grown greatly and its products have improved immensely, but no product exists which perfectly meets the unique needs of every school and student. Just like expanded time, the people choosing and using digital content matter more than the content itself. Just like expanded time, informed design and implementation around digital content is critical but often overlooked. Just like expanded time, blended learning represents a reimagining of the ways that students learn in school.

Although they are two distinct strategies, we know that expanded learning time and blended learning can be mutually beneficial. We know that more time, particularly for teacher collaboration and development, allows blended learning to be implemented with greater fidelity. More time also allows students to engage more deeply in the self-paced and personalized activities that blended learning affords. Conversely, we know that blended learning helps teachers maximize time with their students and their peers. Furthermore, blended learning can create opportunities for teachers to deliver more individual and small group supports, while also supplying teachers with data to enrich discussions with colleagues. Of course, we know that not every school capitalizes on the promise of expanded learning time or blended learning.

We hope that our newest publication, Supporting Student Success through Time and Technology, helps schools better design for and implement blended learning, just as we have done for expanded learning time. Time and Technology highlights the intersections between expanded learning time and blended learning, profiles promising practices at six blended learning schools with expanded learning time, and outlines seven design and implementation steps for practitioners interested in adopting blended learning. We hope that this publication delivers to practitioners the type of unbiased, product-agnostic, school-level guidance that is currently lacking in the blended learning field. Most importantly, we hope that our contributions add to those of numerous other organizations and educators committed to changing our schools—through blended learning, expanded learning, personalized learning, etc.—to improve student learning. We hope you’ll take a look at our work and find some ways it can benefit a school you know.  

Stay tuned for the report release next Friday, January 23.