Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Blended Learning - An Essential Bridge

My blog has been silent recently, but there's a good reason. I've gone back to school...so instead of spending the extra minutes of the day reflecting and writing here, I've spent them engaged in new learning. As a lover of learning, I am in heaven despite the long hours! I've managed to find a program that simultaneously marries my background as a school leader with my passion for technology leadership, and one that has provided new, expansive paths of learning ahead for me.

Beyond this, however, the program (an Executive Masters in Tech Management through Columbia University) has provided me with the ideal environment for this point in my learning. It has reaffirmed both my strong belief in blended learning and has helped me to develop skilled beyond the content of the courses through this model. As a school leader, it was important for me to find a program with flexible working hours. The structure of this program, primarily online with residency weeks of full days in session, allowed me to attend classes from anywhere and to consume content at any time.

More than being conducive to my scheduling needs, however, the program delivered a new iteration of blended learning since 2008 when I completed my Ed Leadership MS. Before we were even face-to-face, my cohort members were placed into teams and provided a very challenging case in our finance class. Our team had to draft a contract delineating our commitments, expectations, and strengths/roles we would like to play in the group. We then dove head first into the assignment, figuring out workflow, meeting times, and communication/work tools. Through Google hangout calls, we accomplished more than an A on the case as we grew to be friends even before we had class together. By the end of the semester, we had formed strong connections via the online interactions and had far exceeded our targets in the class.

As a passionate blended learning educator, I found this experience thrilling. Yet, it has also reaffirmed my strong conviction that we must take the opportunities we have to build the bridge for student success by introducing them to blended learning models along their educational journey. Though more schools are looking at blended learning models to enhance their curriculum, building this bridge requires a focus on models that develop the following skills in students:

  • the ability to assimilate new learning material provided digitally 
  • a resourceful mindset in finding solutions to aid in comprehension of difficult material 
  • the ability to foster rapport across digital platforms and engage in social learning
  • independence and initiative to driving one's learning 
  • discipline in pacing oneself 
  • the ability to establish group workflow and synergy via digital communication
In order to achieve the aforementioned skills, we must look to blended models which go beyond supplemental practice to instead provide the core instructional experience. Students able to experience learning in a digital environment will emerge not only as stronger students but also as those positions to exhibit strength in the work place.