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Online and Blended Learning

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An Explanation of Online and Blended Learning

As explained in Wisconsin's Digital Learning Plan, in order to be ready for college and career, today’s students need access to high-quality digital resources, virtual instruction, and technology-enhanced learning. Online learning provides a variety of options for leveraging innovative student learning experiences and technologies in order to meaningfully engage the digital generation.  The multi-state Virtual Learning Alliance has produced an Online Learning Keys and Definition resource for schools to help design instructional programming options. In addition, Heather Staker has created a guide on Blended Learning in Practice.

Online learning is defined as:

  • education where instruction and content are primarily delivered via the internet or systems like a video-enabled classroom (examples include our Wisconsin Distance Learning networks),
  • blended environments incorporating both virtual and face-to-face instruction (see DPI's full definition of blended learning), and
  • exclusively face to face instruction enhanced with online tools and resources.
  • the educational experience of the student includes some control over time, place, path, and/or pace.

*Note: The term does not include printed-based correspondence education, broadcast television or radio, videocassettes, and stand-alone educational software programs that do not have a significant Internet-based instructional component.

Online learning can take place in:

  • a school building,
  • a student’s home,
  • a location within the community, or
  • some combination of the above.

Important distinctions about "online learning" design and student learning experiences:  

  • The synchronous interaction (online meeting times or interactive learning activities) of instructors and students in collaborative online learning spaces is DPI's preferred pedagogy to increase student achievement.  The best principles of online course design includes opportunities for student and student interaction in online spaces and technology tools.
  • Asynchronous learning (no planned online interactive meeting or learning activities beyond basic student and teacher progress monitoring, grading, or technical support).  Districts should strive to use courseware or software programs that can be enhanced beyond just student asynchronous learning.

Online learning can take place during:

  • a time when school is in session
  • evenings/weekends/holidays, and
  • unscheduled school closures.
The inherent flexibility of online learning does not always conform with traditional understandings of classrooms, school buildings, class times, school days, or physical attendance. As a result, each variation of online learning requires careful consideration of the laws, rules, policies, and procedures shaping education in Wisconsin.