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Gaps in Digital Content for Blended Learning

Posted by Grace Lee on Oct 30, 2013 9:38:00 AM

At the iNACOL Conference this week I had the opportunity to visit with several education technology vendors offering solutions for schools that provide virtual and/or blended instruction. This includes learning management systems, digital content/curriculum, student information systems, professional development, student assessments, and a myriad of other tools.

Like the early days of personal computers and local area networks back in the 1980's and 90's, the state of education technology to support advanced instructional strategies requires integration expertise to get the hardware, software, and other components functioning in a reliable way for teachers to fully implement. While the tools are still maturing, I saw strong growth from last year's conference in terms of the features of the technology and the degree of interoperability.

Digital Content GapsKey to Learning

So far the vendors of core curriculum content (Language arts, math, science, social studies, etc.) for kindergarten through eighth are lacking a fully comprehensive solution. We've been working with a few select products for blended learning implementations where the overall functionality and support is good, but the breadth of the content is lacking--mostly in science and social studies. Apparently these are common weak points because these subjects are not evaluated on most of the important tests for student progress. Hopefully these gaps will be filled soon, but in the meantime can be addressed through effective use of project-based learning within these subject areas.

Districts Going Virtual

With the threat of national and state-run virtual schools impacting their enrollment, more local districts are launching their own online programs. I spoke with district and building leaders who are learning to compete in new ways, increasing the quality of their academic programs, enrollment marketing, and operational performance. Enrollment growth is most effectively realized through disciplined improvements in school culture, teacher quality, programming options, and communication practice. School leaders and education entrepreneurs are finding more effective methods, including starting their own virtual online classes, to structure their educational offerings and supports services to attract more students.

1-to-1 to Blended to Personalized

Investments in learning technology should not be structured around achievement of implementation and the "sexy" marketing value of it but rather instructional, operational, and administrative process improvement. One-to-one academic strategies are over ten years old, yet that's still the goal for too many schools. Online learning has much to contribute when part of a total school plan to raise the quality of instruction, student product, and meaningful assessment.

Blended Learning is a design strategy where a significant portion of the instructional process is accomplished through online delivery. As student are able to control the path and the pace of learning, this creates a Personalized Learning experience that is yielding increasing degrees of engagement and growth for a wide array of population segments. The latter employs an instructional design approach called Student Centered Learning, which promotes a higher degree of autonomy and accountability for each student.

The School Growth model for School Design helps schools take advantage of these strategies and the latest technologies for operational and instructional improvement to achieve higher levels of growth in enrollment and funding. For more information, submit a request on or send an email to

Topics: Blended Learning

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