The first topic of the Virtual School MOOC is about classifying K-12 online learning. A range of resources were cited to introduce the various definitions that have been used to describe different types of online learning. One of my thoughts after watching the videos and readings in this section was that we cannot easily classify and provide exact definitions for online learning, because there is so much variety – and it should be to my view – in the ways that schools and educational systems innovate and use online learning approaches. To me, it’s all about blending different approaches depending on different needs and objectives. That is why I think that blended learning is an overarching term that includes a wide range of approaches that can be used in combinations. And there are many possible combinations!
Some examples from New Zealand...
In New Zealand, the Virtual Learning Network enables clusters of schools to offer distance courses to their students, in addition to the face-to-face courses that their schools offer. Teachers of these courses are called eTeachers. These courses usually involve one hour of video conference between the eTeacher and the students (who are spread across different areas in New Zealand) and three hours of independent study from the students at home or at their home schools. Schools with students enrolled in courses through the VLN usually have an onsite facilitator (often called eDean) to provide additional support during their one hour of video conference with the eTeacher or the time that they study independently. This type of online learning could be under the self-blend model (Staker & Horn, 2012). In addition, teachers in New Zealand schools are implementing a range of online tools and environments in their face-to-face classes, such as Moodle, ePortfolios, Wikis and other Web 2.0 tools. This could be classified under the rotation model (Staker & Horn, 2012).
Coming back to the idea of using the term blended learning as an overarching term, in my research on blended teaching and learning in New Zealand schools I used the terms blended distance and blended web-enhanced teaching and learning to describe the above two types of online learning:
- “Blended distance teaching and learning, referring to the combination of online distance teaching and learning (often through video conference with an eTeacher) with self-study at the school or at home (often with the use of an online learning environment for scaffold) that also involves asynchronous communication with the eTeacher” and
- “Blended web-enhanced teaching and learning, referring to the use of online content as a way to enhance face-to-face teaching and learning” (Zaka, 2012, p.vi).
I’m really looking forward to the next topics of this MOOC – the quest to Ithaca has just become a bit more exciting for me ;-)
Staker, H., & Horn, M. B. (2012). Classifying K–12 blended learning. Mountain View, CA: Innosight Institute.
Zaka, P. A. (2012). Blended teaching and learning in a New Zealand rural secondary school: Using an ecological framework. Unpublished master's thesis, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.