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Using an online learning platform, online discussions, and/or work online to complement your class can:

1. Save Time

Teachers spend hours each week creating, copying, collating, stapling, and hole punching handouts, assignments and activity sheets for students. Much of this time is eliminated when a teacher transitions to an online education platform where handouts can be uploaded and attached to questions, topics and assignment descriptions.

2. Save Money

Copy machines, ink, paper and repairs cost school districts thousands of dollars annually (monthly for some larger districts). Most school sites spend between five to nine cents per copy. My school district currently spends seven cents a copy, which means one handout for each of my 164 students costs $11.50.

In less fortunate districts, teachers are forced to spend hundreds— if not thousands – of dollars of their own money to supplement classroom resources.

Teachers can save money and paper by posting assignments, directions, notes, reading materials online. This also helps those “organizationally challenged” students who tend to lose or misplace everything handed to them. All information is in one easily accessed place.

3. Spend Less Time Grading

Online discussions and collaborative group work free teachers from their role as the only source of information and feedback. When students engage in dynamic online discussions, they become valued resources in the class. They ask each other clarifying questions, compliment strong ideas, provide suggestions for improvement, and offer alternative perspectives. This also creates for improved student engagement and immediate peer feedback.

It is easy to eliminate worksheets that have limited potential to inspire, when students are actively participating in dynamic online discussions related to the curriculum.

4. Spend More Time in Class Doing What You Love

With less time spent in copy centers and grading paperwork, teachers can focus on designing innovative learning opportunities that employ the limitless resources available on the Internet. The classroom can become a more student-centered environment because there is less pressure to cover all the content in the physical classroom. The online space can be used to introduce information or allow students a place to have conversations about that information. This allows more flexibility in the classroom because students can spend more time working in collaborative groups to do creative tasks related to the subject matter.

5. Increase One-On-One Interactions with Students

Teachers can use online tools to engage in conversations with students they may not normally have. Some students are shy or anxious about speaking with a teacher in class; however, online discussions provide students easy access to one another and their teacher. They can post questions and get answers outside the confines of a normal school day, in a setting familiar to them.

6. Provide Students Opportunities to Practice Standardized Exams Online

Most teachers do not want to spend valuable in-class time drilling students on standardized exam questions. Teachers recognize test preparation as necessary in this era of high stakes standardized exams, but most can’t afford to spend much precious class time on test preparation activities.

Instead, they can use collaborative online education platforms, like Collaborize Classroom, that offer multiple question types to facilitate test practice for students. It provides a space for them to work together to develop stronger test taking strategies and skills.

7. Facilitate Group Work That Works

Any teacher who has facilitated a group work assignment in class knows the frustration of time wasted.  Online collaborative group work allows students the flexibility to participate asynchronously when they have time, and eliminates wasted time in class. Technology also creates transparency because it is easier to see who has done what, making the work online more equitable. This work can then be woven back into the classroom where students can present to their peers about work done online.

8. Communicate More Effectively with All Students

Collaborize Classroom and many other online learning platforms have built-in message systems that make it possible for teachers to communicate with individual students or groups of students easily. Teachers can make announcements, amend assignments, change due dates, and address questions using the message option – without having to wait until the next school day.

Teachers who are inclined can also arrange “virtual office hours” using Skype, Google Hangout, or other real time chat tools, to support students outside the classroom.

9. Build Community and Relationships

Teachers can use the online space to build student relationships. Online icebreakers are a fun way to get students talking, using each other’s names and practicing online etiquette. These fun informal conversations translate into a stronger in-class community. This is one of the blended learning benefits that I personally have experienced, much to my satisfaction and delight.

10. Have Fun

The Internet gives teachers access to more information than ever before. Most educational platforms allow teachers to embed pictures, videos, PDFs and documents making it easy to take the best online resources and present them in the safe space of your online learning platform.


Blended Learning

The term “blended learning” is picking up traction in education, but the definition is so amorphous that many educators are not exactly sure what people mean when they use the term. The uncertainty shrouding this term has the potential to create anxiety for teachers in the traditional school setting.

Quite simply: Blended learning is any combination of face-to-face instruction and online learning. It is the weaving together of instructional mediums— in person and online— to maximize learning outcomes for students.

I recently stumbled across Ben Lenz’s blog post on Edutopia asking “Is Blended Learning Worth the Hype?” I had a knee jerk response to this question. “YES!”

Then I began to consider some of the issues that I address in my book Blended Learning in Grades 4-12: Leveraging the Power of Technology to Create Student Centered Classrooms (to be published June 2012 by Corwin Publishing). I discuss many of the of the fear factors associated with blended learning:

  • Less face time in an adjusted schedule
  • Less control over curriculum design and delivery
  • Disrespectful communication or exchanges online
  • Time required to facilitate the work done online

These fears are all valid especially for teachers who are in a district that is adopting a blended learning program. These top-down programs can range from schools with adjusted schedules where students attend fewer classes and complete a portion of course work online to classes in a computer lab with the computer delivering content to online courses that have a teacher facilitating the course. These blended learning models are a sharp departure away from traditional classes. Many teachers feel these models do not value the role of the teacher as essential in the learning process.

I understand that many districts are moving towards these more extreme blended learning models to save money, allow motivated students to move at their own pace, and create opportunities for credit make up. However, these are not the only approaches to blended learning.

In my book I advocate for teachers to claim this term and make it their own. There are millions of teachers who have spent years perfecting their craft. These teachers are more likely to embrace technology if they have a voice in this transition. There are a plethora of technology tools and resources available online (many for free) that can be integrated into traditional classes to create a blended learning model.

Teachers are faced with a growing list of pain points associated with their profession:

  • Larger class sizes

    blended learning | Online Discussions

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  • Tons of paperwork and grading
  • Less access to resources
  • Pressure to raise test scores
  • More diverse student populations

These pain points, which make teaching challenging, can be mitigated—in part –when a teacher incorporates technology into his or her existing curriculum.


24 Responses

  1. Hi Catlin-I am completing my Master’s thesis on strategies that lead to supportive online relationships between student and instructor. I have somehow misplaced the document attributed to you that I want to quote and I need the date of its creation and if this is an excerpt from your upcoming book or was it from one of your presentations? Will you email me?
    Thank you!
    Here is the quote:

    A teacher who plans to use the online environment to build on concepts or content introduced in class may choose to be an involved participant by regularly engaging in the discussion. This role allows the teacher to steer the direction of the dialogue to ensure that the conversations stay focused on particular aspects of the curriculum. The teacher also has the freedom to model online etiquette, ask follow-up questions, compliment student responses and clarify confusions.

    The teacher who chooses to be an involved facilitator must be careful not to overpower the discussion or post an overwhelming number of responses. It can be helpful for an involved facilitator to limit his or her responses to the same number of responses required of his or her students each week. This will also alleviate the burden of feeling that the facilitator must respond to each student or each discussion thread.

  2. Hi Again…
    I think the quote came from an article called “The Role of the Teacher in Online Discussions.

    Thanks Again!

  3. There you have talked about the benefits of blended learning. I’m just learning about the subject. My question is:

    What are the challenges?
    For example, do you have to spend too much time teaching technology skills to students/ new teachers?
    Do students, with limited technology skills, get overwhelmed?
    How do you balance the time you need to teach your subject matter and these skills?
    How do teachers find the time to get prepared for this new trend? (I’m studying and learning during my summer vacation – it kind of sucks)
    I would appreciate anybody’s comments and answers about my questions. This is part of my assignment.


    • Hi Ana,

      You ask great questions. If you are really hoping to do a deep dive into blended learning, I would suggest my book. Many of the questions you ask are big questions with complex answers that I tackle in my book since I am a traditional teacher creating my own blended learning model. It is a delicate balance transitioning over to a blended model. You have to teach students HOW to engage with each other online in a respectful, supportive and substantive way and you need to decide on your role as an educator.

      In terms of balancing tech with teaching my subject matter, these are not mutually exclusive. Technology permeates everything we do. My hope is that the integration of technology improves learning for students and helps them get closer to mastery.


  4. Mam I want to read your book on blended learning. Please help me with this.
    Book name, where i will get?

    Thanks and regards

  5. Would you recommend that elementary teachers who are self-contained try focusing their teaching in 1 or 2 areas to really get good at this new way of teaching? In other words, not be self-contained anymore but have grade level teammates share the curricular responsibilities. This just seems like an astronomical amount of work to do in all curricular areas.

    • Yes, I always encourage teachers to think big but start small when it comes to blended learning. If you are self-contained, I’d focus on one area first then expand from there. If you have grade level teammates, it would be ideal to work collaboratively to make this shift to blended learning. It just depends on your teaching situation.


  6. Hi Caitlyn,
    I teach in a self-contained life skills class where the abilities range from severe to mild cognitive disabilities. What are the pre-requisite skills a student should have in order to effectively engage in blended learning?

    • Hi Laura,

      I don’t work with students with mild to severe cognitive abilities, so I don’t have experience with that population. That said, I think there aren’t really pre-requisite skills necessary to engage in blended learning. To engage online, students need some basic technology skills, but those can be developed over time. In many ways, I’d assume a blended learning approach would be ideal for that population because it allows students to control the pace of their learning and you can use technology to meet students where they are at.


  7. Hi Catlin,

    I am on an action planning team for my district – we are looking to better integrate project and problem based learning and specialize instruction for students at various levels. The buzzword 😉 “blended learning” has come to the forefront as one of those avenues so I am doing some research and have learned a lot so far…however, being a 1st grade teacher myself I need a little help on what this would look like in lower level elementary classrooms. I feel like I have a good idea on upper elementary/secondary from your blog (and plan to purchase your book) but would love feedback or resources to refer to specific to k-2. I appreciate your help!!!

    • Hi Rachel,

      Embracing a blended learning model with younger children works best when schools us a rotation model, where students move from learning online to small groups collaborations to individual instruction. This allows the online element to be woven into the school day in a more structured way. I don’t know of any teachers personally using a blended approach at the elementary level. There is a book available on Amazon titled Blended Curriculum in the Inclusive K-3 Classroom: Teaching ALL Young Children by Michelle Laroque and Sharon M. Darling. I have not read it, but it seems to target what you are interested in. You might check out the preview on Amazon.

      If I come across anything else, I’ll post it.

      Good luck!

  8. Blended Learning seems like an approach that would be useful in our building, especially the ability to individual instruction. Several of our students do not have internet access at home, so we will need to be creative 🙂

    • Hi Kelly,

      I also have students without access. It’s helpful if the school has student use computers available and students have free blocks of time in their schedules to use those available devices for online work. I love how blended learning has transformed my entire approach to teaching!

      Take care.

  9. […] Top 10 Reasons that Blended Learning is Worth the Hype! Image from Using an online learning platform, online discussions, and/or work online to complement your class can: 1. Save Time Teachers spend hours each week creating, copying, collating, stapling, and hole punching handouts, assignments and activity sheets for students. […]

  10. I really like the idea of Blended Learning to provide more differentiation for students. I also agree that it is much more fun to be “working the room.” and interacting with students individually. My concern is in preparation. Are there resources to help with that?

    • Hi Cathleen,

      I spend time talking about lesson design in my newest book Blended Learning in Action. That would be worth checking out if you need a resource to help you manage preparation.


  11. In my own classroom I have moved to using Google Classroom for many assignments and then meeting with students to help them one on one. The model of teachers having a group of students learn at the same pace is outmoded and not adapted to 21st century learning and jobs, and the sooner we incorporate time and place choice, and let students work at their own pace, the better it will be.

  12. I teach in a rural community where the poverty rate is about 62%. Many students don’t have the required technology needed when using the blended the learning model. Our district does provide local hot spots but travel for some can be an issue.

    • Hi Mark,

      The students’ lack of access to reliable devices and the internet at home creates equity issues when extending blended learning beyond the classroom; however, you can use the models entirely in class. I’ve done a lot of work with educators in Alaska who face a similar struggle. Students can get online in school but not at home. Those teachers use blended learning models in their classrooms to create more time to work with individual and small groups of students.


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