Blended learning is becoming entrenched in California schools, but elementary schools and high schools are taking different approaches when integrating this learning technology.
Elementary schools are using the “station rotation” model, in which students in small groups may spend 20 minutes in a reading center, followed by 20 minutes at a computer using an online learning program, and an additional 20 minutes of small group instruction with the teacher.
Elementary schools throughout the country are now adding the online component to the rotating classroom models that have been used for decades, says Heather Staker, a senior education research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute, a nonprofit dedicated in part to researching and promoting blended learning.
- Some 66% of school leaders say they use a blended learning model, compared to 34% who say they primarily use a fully online learning model. And 81% of schools now offer online courses, compared to 66% in 2012. Source: K12 Inc. 2013 Benchmark Study
- Only 33% of middle school students can collect and analyze online data to identify solutions and make informed decisions on school work. Source: Learning.com “21st Century Skills Assessment
“The real attraction to these models is they greatly improve a teacher’s ability to deliver differentiated instruction to small groups,” Staker says.
Though just 19 percent of California’s elementary schools are using blended learning, another 20 percent are planning implementation, according to 2013 research from the California Learning Resource Network, a statewide education technology service of the Department of Education. And of those using blended learning, some 80 percent employ a rotation model.
On the other end of the education spectrum, 73 percent of California districts use online learning at the high school level. Almost half of those districts are using the “a la carte” model in which students take one or more courses entirely online while continuing to take traditional classes at school. Many districts are increasingly requiring students to take an online course before graduation.
“It’s a natural fit for elementary schools to use the station rotation model, since they aren’t quite ready to take complete ownership of their learning,” says Allison Powell, vice president for state and district services at the International Association for K12 Online Learning. “The older a student gets, the more flexible they get and the better the learning choices they can make.”
The Clayton Christensen Institute predicts that by 2019, 50 percent of all high school courses nationwide will be delivered online. However, elementary schools are likely to continue with the blended model because students don’t need the specialized AP or advanced language classes that will only be offered online in some districts.
Schools can improve traditional classrooms by exploring blended learning options that personalize instruction, Staker says. Middle school and high school administrators can also identify content areas that are missing in their schools, such as AP courses, and try to find online learning solutions. “We’re remiss if we don’t embrace the rapid pace of innovation that is presenting itself to the K12 sector,” Staker says.