According to the study’s authors, there are three main steps to full-scale implementation:
1. Strategy: According to the study, clear institutional direction and policy are vital to successfully adopting a BL initiative, which starts by looking at whether or not blended learning fits in with the institution’s mission and what problems or issues the institution is trying to solve.
“Institutions have aligned blended learning to solve one or more significant institutional challenges, such as a period of rapid growth, desire to give access to more students, lack of physical infrastructure, desire for increased flexibility for faculty and students, etc.” notes the study. “The goal of improved learning outcomes was often mentioned by institutions as critical…[and] many institutional leaders considered blended learning as a way to address growth, cost, or flexibility challenges while also resonating with faculty as having potential to improve student learning.
The study notes that institutions might want to convene a task force to strategically address issues, challenges, and opportunities that emerge during implementation. Funding and time are also critical considerations in the first phase of strategy.
2. Structure through:
Technology: The study explains that once a clear policy direction is in place, an institution must establish the necessary physical and technological infrastructure, which may include elements such as computers and other hardware, internet access, and necessary software. Though many case studies show that administrators are often concerned about costs associated with infrastructure, the study estimated that schools following the traditional teaching model may “actually spend substantially more per pupil [due to constant upgrades] than schools utilizing the blended learning models they examined.”
Ownership: Policies need to be established “up-front regarding ownership and accessibility of materials,” emphasizes the study. “Since the term blended learning is difficult to define, institutional policy and support regarding ownership should be contextualized and specific.”
Definitions and seat time: A change in focus from time-based to mastery-based performance measures of student progress is one of the most important policy issues to focus on, says the report.
Incentives: Providing incentives for adoption by faculty and staff has been shown to increase the chances of a successful implementation, and the study notes that incentives can include financial compensation, release time, equipment, and funding allocations for blended learning development.
Evaluation: Graham explains that this may require several new evaluation programs, and often the most effective way to measure blended learning success was to have states set quality standards and accountability measures for online programs. There should also be a move from “inputs-based measures of quality toward measuring outputs in terms of student opportunities and achievement.” According to three of the six institutional case studies, three listed issues around communication to stakeholders of these revised evaluations as critical success factors.
(Next page: Step 3 and video)