Tag Archives: #BlendedLearning

The Future of Blended Learning is…

The future of blended learning is that it is just learning.

The future of blended learning will not confine students to one platform, LMS or digital tool.  According the George Siemens in Learning Management Systems: The wrong place to start learning, “Essentially, most LMS platforms are attempting to shape the future of learning to fit into the structure of their systems, even though most learning today is informal and connectivist in nature” (2004).  As on online teacher and online graduate student, I have been able to experience firsthand the way in which various learning management platforms shape dialogue and discussion.  It is true that the future of blended learning will be defined by “our ability to capitalize on technological developments will most assuredly be founded on our understanding of a worthwhile educational experience” (Garrision, 2008, p. 1). Ultimately learning that is placed in a real context, that encourages critical discourse and that allows for continuous reflection facilitates deep and rich learning.  Therefore it is the role of educators to access a variety digital tools in order to design learning tasks and experiences that allow for deep and rich learning to take place (Garrison & Cleveland-Innes).

Recently, at the ULead Conference, I had the opportunity to hear Abdul Chohan speak about his school Essa Academy in the UK, a school that could be considered on the forefront of the future of blended learning.  According to Bonk, Kim, & Zeng (2006) the future of all learning will be strongly influenced by mobile devices, ubiquitous access to connection, and a demand for learning at any time, any place and any pace.  At Essa Academy we are given a glimpse of this future as students access digital tools that are simple and reliable to both access content, explore ideas and to demonstrate their understanding.  The key to this approach is that the school offers students access to or allows students to bring their own devices that are mobile, not just portable.  The differentiation between mobile and portable devices is an important one.  At Essa, all students are given an iPad to be used both at school and at home.  The school uses both a flipped classroom and a blended learning approach, offering students access to their course material online at any time through iTunesU and allowing them to take their mobile devices home with them so that learning can continue beyond the school hours.  According to the department of education who audited Essa, “teachers use well students’ access to hand-held technology to promote investigative skills and to ensure that students reflect on their learning” (Ofsted).   Essa Academy offers us a glimpse into the future of learning.  When asked if he considers his school to be a blended learning school, Chohan replies that Essa is “just a school where learning happens, blended or flipped.” Garrison and Vaughan agree with Chohan that in the future “there will come a time when the blended learning distinction will dissolve as a useful label.  The reason is that all learning will be blended to some degree” (Garrision, 2008, p. 15).  I think schools like Essa Academy and many others show us that the time has come.  The future of blended learning is that it is just learning.


Bonk, C. J., Kim, K., & Zeng, T. (2006). Future directions of blended learning in higher education and workplace learning settings. In C. J. Bonk, & C. R. Graham (Eds.), The handbook of blended learning: Global perspectives, local design (pp. 550-567). San Francisco : Pfeiffer. Available online from http://www.publicationshare.com/c083_bonk_future.pdf

Drysdale, J.S., Graham, C.R., Spring, K.J., & Halverson, L.R. (2013). An analysis of research trends in dissertations and theses studying blended learning. Internet and Higher Education. 17 (April), 90-100. PDF Format

Garrison, D.R., Cleveland-Innes, M. (2005). Facilitating Cognitive Presence in Online Learning: Interaction is Not Enough. The American Journal of Distance Education, 19(3), 133-148.

Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. (2008). Chapter Eight: Future. Blended Learning in Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. PDF Format

Siemens, G., (2004) The wrong place to start learning.  Available from: <http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/lms.htm [Accessed 17 July 2014]

Essa Academy:



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Uplifting Leadership


Over the next few days I will have the privileged of attending the Ulead conference in beautiful Banff, Alberta and one of the keynote speakers today was Andy Hargreaves. In his writing, Hargreaves has classified educational as having moved through four distinct periods, each with its own emphasis or approach to school leadership. His discussion will be useful when considering transformative leadership for blended learning. Hargreaves makes a distinction between each period of leadership by the roles that government, leaders, teachers and students play in learning. In the first period of leadership teachers were autonomous leaders in their own, often very small or one room schools. In the second period, school leaders became managers, concerned with accountability, standardization of both curriculum and assessment. This period took the autonomy away from teachers in an attempt to regulate learning and test scores. In the most recent, third period, leaders have shifted their focus to 21st century skills, performance, human capital, self-efficacy, targets, and technology. Strong and distributed leadership has been embraced by many learning organizations as a means to build human capital and increase performance.

Hargreaves believes that there is great potential in distributed leadership but warns that is must be taken as more that simply an opportunity for teachers to participate in decision making. Unfortunately, distributed leadership at its worst can be a way for leaders to offload responsibilities to teachers without giving teachers any ownership for decision-making. Distributed leadership at its best could and should create a culture and a climate where teachers feel they can bring innovation into their practice without waiting for an invitation or permission. This distributed approach to leadership has the potential to “raise institutional awareness, build support, and cultivate collaborative leadership” (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008, p. 21). In a distributed leadership environment, teachers feel able to connect and collaborate to improve the learning outcomes of their students without waiting for instruction or directive from their leaders. As Garrison and Vaughan state, “Transformation must be driven by the need and demand for higher quality learning experiences” (p.4, 2008). Distributed leadership offer the hope for transformation where leaders see themselves as lead learners responsible for setting a direction, inspiring and supporting their teachers to design learning tasks that are of high quality.

In his presentation, a fourth way to leadership was offered by Hargreaves, in which the role of a leader moves beyond distributed to uplifting leadership. This fourth way of leadership relies on collective efficacy, participation and collaboration. Hargreaves describes uplifting leadership as having the following set of qualities. Uplifting leaders will set the direction for their organization by dreaming with determination. They will set the course based on clear, sound and defensible research and practice. Uplifting leaders are creative in their approach to system level change and work with the forces that may be perceived as resistant or working against them, turning perceived weakness into strengths. These leaders understand that there is great benefit in collaboration and they both push and pull their teachers to create communities of practice. Uplifting leaders do not use data to hold teachers accountable but instead measure with meaning to assure their various publics. Uplifting leaders understand that innovation must be undertaken in a way that is disciplined in order to manage and sustain growth as well as to reflect on practice and the impact that innovation has on learning. Uplifting leaders find opportunities that others have missed including embracing change even when things are succeeding. But most importantly, uplifting leaders know that their role is “to serve those who follow as well as, if not better than, they serve. Finally, and perhaps above all, remember that in all its forms, leadership without ongoing personal transformation is little more than management” (Workman & Clevelland-Innes, 2012, p. 323). Hargreaves agrees that in order to have transformational leadership, “we uplift the people we serve by uplifting the people who serve them.”

Hargreaves, A. (2015). Uplifting Leadership – Keynote ULead2015

Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. (2008). Leadership, policy, and organizational change (unpublished). Blended Learning in Higher Education.San Francisco : Jossey-Bass. PDF Format

Workman, T., & Cleveland-Innes, M. (2012). Leadership, personal transformation, and management. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 13(4), 313-323. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1383/2329

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How to Blend Online Learning?

Current Models of Blended-Learning at ADLC:
At the Alberta Distance Learning Centre, the majority of the students we currently teach are those who primarily attend bricks and mortar schools but “choose to take one or more courses entirely online to supplement their traditional courses” (Staker, 2012 p. 14). This self-blended approach is one in which the students experience indirect blended learning by engaging in online learning for a portion of their schooling while attends the majority face-to face.

Another subset of students that ADLC serves is full-time online students in a fully online model. This approach involves very intentional instructional design choices that include, “Supplemental, Replacement, and Emporium models including web-based, multi-media resource, commercial software, automatically evaluated assessments with guided feedback, links to additional resources and alternative staffing models” (Twigg, 2008, p. 4). What we are looking to move towards with this group is a redesign that shifts towards an enriched virtual model where students would blend their time between online delivery of content and instruction and face-to-face experiences and opportunities for instruction. In this approach, rarely would students attend a bricks and mortar school every day, but could use the physical space and face-to-face connection with teachers and peers to supplement their online learning experience.

Redesigning Professional Learning:
As ubiquitous access to technology increases in K-12 classrooms, a shift in the way in which learning is designed and delivered is beginning to materialize. In the k-12 education, technology enhanced learning, whether it be a version of blended, or fully online is a growing and developing area of education. In 2012-2013, 10.3% of Alberta K-12 students took some form of distance education (Barbour, 2013). This trend will likely only increase in the future due to increased access to technology, better understanding of connectivist approaches to learning and demand from learners. As teachers begin to shift their classroom practice towards technology enhanced learning in its variety of models and classifications, a need for deep understanding of the pedagogy, theory and practice of this type of learning has emerged. Because online and blended learning is complex and continues to evolve, a need for professional development for pre-service and in-service teachers within the K- 12 system has materialized.

The Alberta Distance Learning Centre and the Centre for Distance Education at Athabasca University have begun to redesign their traditional delivery of both teacher professional learning (ADLC) and graduation level courses (AU). In a partnership that pairs, a PhD professor from Athabasca University with a practicing teacher researcher in K-12 online and blended learning, a process of co-creating and co-delivering a new model for professional learning in online and blended learning is being prototyped. The goal is to offer a series of micro-courses that will provide professional development in the theory and practice of online and blended learning. This redesigned model will use either a fully online or an enriched online model to create professional development that is more substantial than a one day seminar and less time demanding than a graduate level course commitment. These courses are designed to teach the theory of online and blended learning through the practice of engaging in the experience that model research informed best practice. Through this learning experience, practitioners will develop a deeper understanding of the opportunities and implications of technology enhanced learning for k-12 students.

Barbour, M. (2013). State of the nation: K-12 Online learning in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.openschool.bc.ca/pdfs/state_of_nation-2013.
Staker, H. & Horn, M.B. (2012). Classifying K to 12 Blendded Learning. Boston, MA: Innosight Institute. Available online at: http://blendedlearning.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Classifying-K-12-blended-learning.pdf
Twigg, C.A. (2008). Six models of course redesign. Available online from http://www.thencat.org/PlanRes/R2R_ModCrsRed.htm

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