Professional Development Opinion

Blended Learning Helps Conference Align with Learning Designs Standard

By Learning Forward — November 21, 2013 2 min read
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Carol François

Most of us would concur parents aren’t supposed to have a favorite child, but that’s not always the case in real life. So it is when I consider the Standards for Professional Learning. Although the seven standards were designed to work in partnership with one another, sometimes I find myself concentrating on a particular standard more than others. That’s not to say I don’t take the others into account when planning professional learning, but often one might get more attention at the outset.

Right now, I am focused on planning rigorous and relevant learning options for Learning Forward conferences, so the Learning Designs standard has been occupying my mind lately. This standard is all about increasing educator effectiveness and results for all students by creating learning designs that integrate theories, research, and models of human learning to achieve intended outcomes.

One of the models of human learning that’s captured my attention for quite some time is blended learning. Blended learning isn’t really new; it’s been around since the 60’s. What’s different is that technologies and infrastructures now exist to support blended learning adequately and effectively.

Today, blended learning offers the best of both worlds -- learning face-to-face and through virtual technology options. This year, Learning Forward will offer 20 Conference Session “Plus” sessions using this model. Plus sessions will align with the Learning Design standard by offering additional avenues for active engagement, one-on-one feedback, ongoing support, and reflection. Plus facilitators and attendees will be able to collaborate, exchange resources, and extend their learning before, during, and after the conference using the Learning Exchange online social networking platform. They will be able to upload and access learning materials, links, videos, etc., at any time of day to support the session topic and learn from and with each other. This blended learning model will also offer multiple avenues to achieve learning goals and more opportunities to differentiate and deepen the learning for everyone.

Since this is a new venture for Learning Forward, I’m holding my breath to see how it works. So far, though, Plus facilitators have embraced the idea and already are posting welcome messages, extra resources, and provocative questions on their session topics before they ever meet attendees face-to-face in December at our conference. In the best case scenario, the Plus sessions will live for months beyond the conference, becoming spaces where attendees stay in contact with each other, expanding their knowledge and taking responsibility for how and what they learn. The sessions will address other standards by helping participants build effective learning communities, make the most of available resources, implement the learning, and achieve their desired outcomes.

Whatever the outcome, this has been a rich learning experience for me to explore all the Standards for Professional Learning by focusing on one standard in particular a bit more deeply.

Carol François
Director of Learning, Learning Forward

The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.