Blended learning site offers new tools to find resources

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K-12 schools can now find blended learning resources and modify profiles of their work more easily on a popular online database.

The directory, produced by Blended Learning Universe (BLU), is an online hub designed to showcase schools’ edtech resources, including the software and hardware it uses, models of blended learning and demographic information.

BLU launched an upgrade for the directory Tuesday, featuring an advanced search tool and the ability for schools to build their profile and timeline pages directly online. Previously, schools submitted information to BLU, which researchers posted to the website.

“We were looking to connect what we know are similar efforts happening across the country, and provide a database that makes those connections visible and clear to practitioners,” said Julia Freeland Fisher, the director of education research at the Clayton Christensen Institute, which produces BLU.

BLU officials said 27 new profiles were added to the site within two days after it was launched. The directory now contains information from nearly 300 schools from more than 175 school districts across 38 states.

BLU started to catalog emerging blended learning models in 2011, using staff researchers to visit schools and interview and survey school officials.

In the updated version of service, users who want to be part of the directory are asked to take a quick quiz to assess whether the school has applied blended learning by definition. Qualified schools can use the site to illustrate specific practices on their profile page.

“Our hope is that as this site gets more social and more dynamic, more folks will come to it directly to feature the work that they’re doing,” Fisher said.

Schools need to provide demographic information, including students’ grades, enrollment, locations and blended subjects. Geographic information is one of the highest search filters, with most users searching by state, said Clifford Maxwell, research assistant at Clayton Christensen Institute, who oversees BLU.

An advanced search tool now on the site lets educators look for resources that match the demographics of their schools. The new version also features a timeline page for each school to summarize the changes in edtech products and models it has used over time.

“Schools are constantly iterating their blended learning models,” Fisher said. “We want to capture that information so that others in the similar positions can learn from those changes over time.”

The team expects to enhance the site further by linking the directory of school profiles more closely with the resources page on the BLU website.

“Instead of just reading about ‘designing the virtual experience’ in your classroom, you can quickly jump to a school that has done that well, for example,” Maxwell said. “Or instead of reading about how station rotation models work, you can see examples of schools doing that.”

Reach the reporter at yizhu.wang@edscoop.com and follow her on Twitter @yizhuevy.

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