Research/Policy | Blended Learning at New Leaders

Blended learning, which combines independent online work with in-person group sessions, can support educator development while promising time-savings, flexibility, learner autonomy, and ease of use — all without sacrificing program quality. Indeed, two decades of peer-reviewed studies of in-person, online, and blended instruction have consistently demonstrated that quality trumps delivery method. To more deeply understand the opportunities and challenges of blended learning, New Leaders examined a series of innovative, blended programs designed specifically for public school leaders and faculty. These programs incorporated independent online instructional components with in-person professional development sessions, job-embedded practice, and personalized coaching. Made possible by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Blended study examined programs implemented by New Leaders during school year 2017-18 with more than ten partners, including urban and rural districts and charter schools.

An effective blended learning program model is not simply a ratio of time spent in-person versus online; it requires more than retrofitting an existing in-person course with online discussion boards and YouTube links. Moreover, contrary to the common belief about immediate cost-savings, blended learning programs may initially be more expensive than traditional in-person programs because of essential investments in technology and other areas of support.

Key Takeaway: Five Key Ingredients of Blended Adult Professional Development

Relevance to participants’ immediate work and professional priorities is crucial; content and vocabulary should be aligned with local standards and tools.

Accountability supports participants to engage with program content and to incorporate what they learn into their practice.

Self-Regulation is needed so that participants stay on top of scheduling time to effectively engage with independent online content and assignments.

Motivation, or what participants want to get out of the blended learning experience, is an important consideration for blended program designers and facilitators.

Prior Experience with online or blended instruction influences participants’ expectations.

Key Takeaway: Four Key Organizational Actions to Support Effective Blended Learning Programming

Blended instructional staff need time to prepare content and familiarize themselves with the online platform.

Timely tech support for online tools is crucial for blended program success, as technical difficulties dampen participants’ enthusiasm.

Participants stay engaged with online content and accountable for their work when expectations are communicated early and often.

Participants benefit from and are motivated by connecting with peers to exchange ideas and solutions both in-person and online.

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