A Spotlight on Lack of Evidence Supporting the Integration of Blended Learning in K-12 Education: A Systematic Review

A Spotlight on Lack of Evidence Supporting the Integration of Blended Learning in K-12 Education: A Systematic Review

Mark Poirier (Parenting and Special Education Research Unit, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium), Jeremy M. Law (School of Interdisciplinary Studies, College of Social Science, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK) and Anneli Veispak (Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/IJMBL.2019100101
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In an effort to highlight the need for, and lack of, quality empirical research in K-12 blended learning environments, this systematic narrative review investigated and reported on the quantity and quality of recent empirical research in K-12 blended learning, published between 2009 and February 2017. In addition to assessing the quality and scope of these studies, the effectiveness of blended learning environments on learning outcomes and potential contributing variables were discussed. Eleven articles were identified and found to meet the inclusionary criteria and measures of quality set by this review, extending the corpus of 5 articles identified by a previous 2009 meta-analysis commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education to 16. Mixed findings regarding the benefit of blended learning in a K-12 setting were reported across the literature, thereby highlighting the need for more extensive research in this domain.
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1. Introduction

Modernity inspires innovation. Nowhere is this more evident than in an educational context. One such innovation is distance education (Bonk & Graham, 2006). For decades, distance education has offered an opportunity for isolated or busy individuals to learn without the expense and ongoing commitment of attending permanent, brick and mortar schools. Over the years, the practice of correspondence education has evolved to become more interactively streamlined through the use of web-based technologies (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). As accessibility and content of various web-based platforms and resources have grown, so too have their integration and blending with traditional face-to-face instruction.

The term ‘blended’ or ‘blended learning’ has been applied quite broadly throughout literature and educational practice. Graham (2006) noted that early models exploring blended learning attempted to address the question of “what is blended?” and resulted in 3 distinct conclusions: 1) a combination of online and face-to-face instruction (Young, 2002; Friesen, 2012); 2) a combination of instructional modalities or delivery media (Thomson, 2002); 3) a combination of different instructional methods (Driscoll, 2005).

The most prominent definition adopted within recent educational research has associated the term ‘blended’ with both learning and learning environments in situations where technology and/or online resources are combined in some form with traditional in-class instruction. In an effort to refine this definition and establish essential characteristics of blended learning Bernard, Borokhovski, Schmid, Tamim, and Abrami (2014) argued that no less than 25% of time should be spent in online environments with 50% or more time spent face-to-face. Others, conversely, have argued for the use of more discrete categorisation where: 1) traditional instruction was defined as having 0% of online content delivery; 2) 1%-29% of online delivery was defined as ‘web facilitated’ instruction; 3) ‘blended’ was defined as 30%-79% online; and iv) the use of 80% or greater online content delivery, defined as ‘online’ (Allen & Seman, 2007).

Due to the lack of location-based restrictions inherent in online learning, some blended learning environments and designs may result in the use of a flipped classroom pedagogical model where students receive and engage with lecture material at home at their own pace while completing assignments and discussions in class (Lage, Platt, & Treglia, 2000).

In the current systematic review, blended learning will be defined as the deliberate integration and combination of online, computer-based learning and instruction with face-to-face methods of learning and instruction, regardless of the application of a flipped or traditional pedagogical structure. As empirical studies examining blended learning in primary and secondary educational (K-12) settings are scarce, a wide-ranging online to face-to-face time allotment criteria is applied to increase the likelihood of inclusion similar to the meta-analysis of Means, Toyoma, Murphy and Baki (2013). Within this review, ‘deliberate combination' is considered as a more important criteria than that of the amount of time spent in either online or in-class environments.

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