Blended Learning

Expanding digital and online offerings can begin to alleviate significant inequities that exist within our public school system today. Some students have access to high quality teachers and a diverse array of courses and schools. Others lack access because they live in communities that struggle to attract talent or find the resources to provide the variety of options that a wealthier or larger district can offer. A shift to a blended model of learning – one that combines face to face, online and digital learning – is an important next move for our state. 

Click through for more on:

Latest News & Reports

The Colorado Summit on Blended Learning, Spring 2012

Denver Blended Learning Workshop, March 2013

What is Blended Learning?

Policy Recommendations

Latest News & Reports:

"Blended Learning in Rural Colorado: Status & Strategies for Expansion," by Amy Murin and John Watson with the Evergreen Group for the Colorado Department of Education. Published July 2012. Funded in part by DK.

For a comprehensive list of blended learning reports and resources, visit out Blended Learning Resources page.  

Colorado Summit on Blended Learning

The Donnell-Kay Foundation hosted the 3rd annual Colorado Summit on Blended Learning in March, April and May 2012. If you missed any of the meetings, they are available live via webinar recording:

March 22, 2012: Read more about the successful March meeting, or watch the webinar in its entirety here.

April 24, 2012: Agenda & the webinar recording. 

May 17, 2012: Click here for the May agenda, or watch the webinar here. You can also follow along with the speakers' presentations from the day: David Teeter, policy director at iNACOL, Howard Stephenson, Utah State Senator, and New Hampshire Deputy Commissioner Paul Leather.

The 2012 Summit was hosted by DK and our partners: the Colorado Department of Education, the University of Colorado Denver School of Education and Human Development, The Colorado Education Initative, eNet Colorado, and iNACOL.

History of the Colorado Summit on Blended Learning: 

In an effort to learn more about innovative online and blended learning programs and systems, both locally and nationwide, we created the Colorado Summit on Blended Learning, the inaugural summit was March 18, 2010 (Read more). The second annual summit was scheduled for April 28-29, 2011. Click here for more information about the 2011 Summit. 

What is blended learning?

A relatively new concept in public education, blended learning is student-centered in its approach, allowing students and schools to use time and resources more flexibly than in traditional school environments. There are various definitions for and approaches to this new type of learning. The Innosight Institute's most recent report, Classifying K-12 Blended Learning, identifies four models of blended learning occurring across the country today.

It is important to note that blended learning is not just about integrating online content or using cool new technologies. As is the case in any quality educational setting, blended learning requires an effective teacher to guide and support student learning.

In early 2011, DK released the report and executive summary. Read this research for more on our policy perspective and recommendations.

DK also hosted two events called The Colorado Summit on Blended Learning, in an effort to learn more about innovative online and blended learning programs and systems, both locally and nationwide.

DK surveyed superintendents, principals and charter school leaders across Colorado in 2010 to identify districts and schools using online and other types of digital learning. Over 120 individuals responded from 58 districts and BOCES, and 40 charter schools. Here’s a summary of their responses.

Policy recommendations:

Like other states, Colorado schools and districts that create blended learning opportunities are encountering policy challenges. A recent national report from the Digital Learning Council (DLC) identifies 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning and makes state policy recommendations to help states move closer to a blended model of delivering education. The International Associaton for K-12 Online Learning, or iNACOL, offers its Principles for Model Legislation in States, to increase quality online learning opportunities.

Moving from a traditional, brick and mortar-based (and largely digitally un-connected) model of educational delivery to one that is student-centric, personalized and blended is no small shift, nor can it be implemented overnight. The following list raises important questions and ideas to consider as our state moves further down this path. 

Should there be different accountability requirements for online schools?

Some argue that there are more requirements placed on online schools than on their brick and mortar counterparts. The state should assess which requirements continue to be necessary and which requirements can either be eliminated or changed, given the passage and requirements of the Education Accountability Act (2009) that are in place today but didn’t exist when the Online Learning Act was passed in 2007.

Does our current school finance system support blended learning?

In a blended model, a student may take some courses from their brick and mortar schools and others online. Yet, our schools are funded based on seat-time, typically within a given school, not taking into account the possibility that students may choose to take courses from multiple schools/vendors. What are some funding models that could ensure that both the online school or provider and the brick and mortar school receive resources to best educate their students?

How should we count students who attend both online and brick and mortar schools for student achievement purposes?

Who “owns” the achievement results on the CSAP for a student? For example, if a student takes their math courses from an online school and the remainder of their courses in a brick and mortar school, who should get credit for the student’s CSAP results in math? Currently, the student’s brick and mortar school is held accountable for all academic results. It is worth looking into other options to allow for shared accountability.

Can we better align teacher preparation and professional development to a blended model?

Some states are beginning to require teacher licensure applicants to have experience in online instruction. Currently, no such mandate exists in Colorado. We encourage schools of education and alternative teacher preparation programs to embrace the digital age and train teachers going in to schools for the first time on quality instruction in online and blended settings. And, we encourage the state to consider requiring online experience and or coursework for teacher licensure.