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]