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An Online and Blended Learning Environment...

Research indicates that students enrolled in engaging and rigorous curriculum achieve academic success.  Online and blended learning can revolutionize how students learn by offering a deeply student-centered learning experience, by supporting standards for high-order thinking, by benefiting both teachers and students, and by providing data-driven instruction to personalize learning.  "Keeping Pace with Online and Blended Learning" is a review of policy and practice.  It strives to add to the body of knowledge about online education policy and practice, and make recommendations for advances. It also serves as a reference source for information about programs and policies across the country. 

online learning

Online Learning is teacher-led education that takes place over the internet, with the teacher and student separated geographically, using a web-based educational delivery system that includes software to provide a structured learning environment.  It may be synchronous (communication in which participants interact in real time, such as online video) or asynchronous (communication separated by time, such as email or online discussion forums).  It may be accessed from multiple settings (in school and /or out of school buildings). www.inacol.org

Blended learning

This is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path and/or pace; at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; and the modalities along each student's learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience. www.christenseninstitute.org


The growth of online learning in the K12 sector is occurring both remotely through virtual schools and on campuses through blended learning.  In emerging fields, definitions are important because they create a shared language that enable people to talk about new developments.  The following blended learning models were created to use as a language for the K12 blended learning sector.  The models are intentionally broad and open to ensure flexibility as the field continues to innovate. Heather Staker and Michael Horn, 2012

Personalized Learning 


The U.S. Department of Education's National Education Technology Plan calls for "an alternative to the one-size-fits-all model of teaching and learning."  Championing personalized learning, the report goes on to explain, "Personalization refers to instruction that is paced to learning needs (individualized), tailored to learning preferences (differentiated), and tailored to the specific interest of different learners." 
New technology tools are making it easier to customize learning for every student.  The Christensen Institute defines blended learning and stresses student agency by requiring student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.  Read more about ways students can co-create customized learning pathways:  http://gettingsmart.com/2014/02/kids-co-created-customized-learning-pathways/
Technology has the power to unleash individual student potential. It has the power to allow what is almost impossible in a traditional classroom; students learning at a pace suitable for each individual instead of the pace of the non-existent “average” student.  Read more in this article, "Self-paced Blended Learning Highlights 'Average Student' Myth".
The key to making personalized learning work for the greatest number of student is adaptive digital environments and experiences.  Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Next Generation Learning Challenge (NGLC) grantees provide examples of schools that are creating the path forward with technology-powered and engaging student-centered models. The most compelling reason to shift to online and blended learning is the potential to keep students at the center of the learning experience. NGLC lays out the following design principles of personalized learning related to instruction:
  • Student Centered
  • High Expectations
  • Self-Pacing and Mastery-Based
  • Blended Instruction
  • Student Ownership
In this white paper, read about how one school saw every student move up an entire proficiency level with no student was left behind with the implementation of a personalized learning.
Learning Outside the Lines strives to provide real-world examples of school districts that are thinking outside of the box for strategies and tools that will make every student successful regardless of the challenges that must be faced. Many of the schools and district administrators  profiled believe that a personalized learning experience is needed, which demands a more thoughtful approach to the education experience. Read more about the 10 elements of a personalized, blended learning experience for students:
Will Richardson, veteran educator and author, spoke at  recent gathering at Educon conference.  "We need to begin to think about schools in a fundamentally different way.  In his vision of this third narrative, reformers would focus on creating an education system that supports inquiry-based, student-centered learning, where students are encouraged to find entry points into the mandated curriculum in ways that are meaningful to them.  Technology is an integral part of Richardson's vision because it allows students to create and demonstrate their knowledge.  That piece of it really allows kid to create things and connect with other people, arguably more important than much of the traditional curriculum that schools are built around."  What Would Be a Radically Different Vision of School?
In this white paper, the benefits of blended learning are outlined as follows:
  1. More lessons at the right level
  2. Improved student engagement, motivation, and persistence
  3. Better diagnosis of learning difficulties and gaps
  4. More time for teachers to provide informed small group instruction
  5. The opportunity to extend the day and year - without a bigger budget
  6. The opportunity for teachers to work together in a more professional, collaborative, data-driven environment
  7. A competency-based environment where students progress as they demonstrate mastery - and get the time to achieve it
  8. Improved progress tracking and, in a growing number of schools, a broad dashboard of success metrics
  9. Improved parent communication and involvement
  10. Improved sustainability for schools struggling with budget pressures
Successes and Achievements noted in this white paper include:
  • Increased enrollment
  • Improved growth scores
  • Highest performing schools in district
  • Decreased dropout rates
  • Increased college applicants
The authors include an important list of Blended Learning Design Principles based on their research and findings:
  • Teacher at the center
  • Teacher support is Vital
  • Quality and ongoing PD builds culture
  • Determine technology
  • Ease of use is essential
  • Rigorous and engaging curriculum
  • Track student progress and data
  • Large, searchable content catalog
  • Tools that give Instant and mobile access to reports and data
  • An online platform that does not limit

Engaging and Inspiring Learning

  • KCS Teacher Created Curriculum
  • KCS Teachers for Virtual and Blended Learning
  • Learning Management System
  • Engaging & Inspiriing Curriculum
  • Hands-On & Project Based Learning

Success Stories

DBE STudents 

proven facts

Noteworthy points include:
  • Students are enrolled in a rigorous and engaging curriculum
  • Schools offer higher-level coursework (i.e., AP, honors, college level, college classes) is available to all students.
  • Schools have designed a learning environment that is connected to the students' real-world interests.
  • Schools motivate students toward higher learning by giving them the opportunity to experience college level courses.
  • Schools offer an interdisciplinary curriculum
  • Schools offer Early College experience
  • Schools offer a Work-Study program
  • Personalization and Real World Projects are key components
Data and Findings:
  • Steady rate of improvement on state academic achievement tests, school-wide and for all subgroups
  • Increased SAT scores
  • Increased attendance
  • Record number of students graduating high school and record number of students applying to college