4 Ideas for Rubrics to Determine the Effectiveness of Blended Learning
Assessment of Blended Learning
Blended learning, and the more broadly-defined, Hybrid Education, is a blend of traditional, in-person learning, and some form of computer-mediated instruction. In higher education, proponents have noted that blended learning may improve course outcomes like student retention, higher passing rates, better in-person attendance, and overall attainment of course objectives. A great, worldwide experiment is now taking place in real-time to see how to extend those potential outcomes to K-12 Hybrid Education.
In the absence of grand consensus amongst scholars, how can your school and/or district determine the effectiveness of your own blended learning program? One way favored by researchers and content experts is the development of rubric-based frameworks. A rubric-based framework is an evaluation method based on standards. It is typically comprehensive and can cover a broad range of factors. They’re often used to give a quick and broad overview of a blended learning program. But what should be assessed? And who should be engaged in the assessment of your blended learning program? Here are a few ideas for how this might be done.
1. Decide What to Assess and What Tool to Use to Assess It
There is a wide array of potential metrics with which to assess the effectiveness of your blended learning program. Half a dozen rubric frameworks were identified in this journal article alone, measuring every possible aspect of blended learning, from overall quality of instructional design and delivery to technology support. With limited time, energy, and resources, you will want to first decide what dimensions of blended learning you want to focus on to assess.
For example, if you decide to use the Quality Online Course Initiative Rubric published by the Illinois Online Network, you’re looking at six potential dimensions of assessment. You don’t necessarily have to focus on all aspects at once. Perhaps you make a strategic decision to focus on one or two areas, like instructional design and/or student evaluation and assessment. Some resources, like California State University’s Quality Learning and Teaching rubric, might be best suited for higher education, but you might want to use parts of it to meet your needs at the K-12 level. Work in partnership with fellow educators and your technology staff to decide what matters most and how it would be best measured.
2. Use Rubrics As Part of a Larger Strategy
It may be tempting to just search for and begin to apply rubrics to your existing blended learning program. After all, nobody needs another binder-on-the-shelf strategic planning approach right now, right? But being strategic about your blended learning program doesn’t have to be that way.
Take a look at the Online Learning Consortium’s Quality Scorecard for blended learning programs. It’s not just about going through each statement and scoring it. It’s about having ongoing, in-depth conversations about the items on the list and then taking action to make them better. It’s about building a system in which blended learning can thrive in your school and/or district. So, don’t just toss the rubrics out there, do a deep dive into the strategy, principles, and standards behind the rubrics. Your blended learning instructional program will be so much stronger for it.
3. Rubrics Aren’t Perfect - Balance Your Approach
Rubrics are generally a quick, clear, and logical way to assess. The potential downside, as pointed out by researchers, is that they are also somewhat subjective in nature and can lack depth. The good news is that you and your team can work to mitigate these potential stumbling blocks. For example, if you feel that the rubric you are using is too vague in terms of what constitutes “developing” toward or “meeting” objectives, you can work to define the terms to help you meet your objectives.
As an example, look back at the Quality Online Course Initiative Rubric mentioned earlier. Although it does attempt to define rubric terms, even those definitions are a little vague. Take the “developing” level: What is the evidence? What would better development look like at the next level, “Meets?” These are great professional conversations for teams of educators to have. Have tough conversations about the rubrics.
You can also balance the use of rubrics with tools like stakeholder surveys or classroom observations. Don’t discount data points that are harder to capture with rubrics, such as how students report feeling about their blended learning experience. Rubrics make a lot of sense. They make a lot more sense when you use them as part of a balanced portfolio of your assessment of overall blended learning program effectiveness.
4. Embed Blended Learning Assessment Into Your LMS
Instead of keeping the assessment of your blended learning program off-book, embed your rubrics and other tools into your school’s learning management system (LMS). Create a staff-only space where you will house these tools and analyze the results. When your rubrics and related data live in your LMS, they are easily accessible to make curriculum-related decisions quicker and easier than through more traditional structures. And, for schools and districts using the full Schoology Learning Suite, results for these assessments can be viewed—by overall score and/or by learning objective—as well as compared to additional performance data, such as local benchmarks, third party assessments, and even attendance and behavior data. This can be vital information to view at a student, class, grade, school, or across your entire organization.
For whatever reason, data still intimidates people. When you create a space for data to live and systems with which to analyze and use it to improve instruction, it becomes less intimidating and a lot more personal. Use your LMS as the place to house your tools and blended learning effectiveness analysis and you’ll be in a better place to develop the program to the benefit of educators and students alike.
Rubrics: Toward Better Blended Learning
On the ground with teachers every day, I can tell you that they feel absolutely buffeted about by the rapid pace of change over the last seven months, especially the paradigm shift to blended learning that, in some cases, occurred literally overnight. So now we have blended learning systems where once all was almost 100 percent traditional. It’s a huge shift.
The good news is that using rubrics to assess the effectiveness of your blended learning delivery system is a method that already makes sense to educators who use them every day in class and online. When aligned with the standards that are meaningful to your school and district, they provide a quick and substantive way to “keep score” as to the quality of your blended learning environment and provide clues as to how to move forward. Be strategic and purposeful in their use, and your implementation of high-quality rubrics will pave the way for a better system of blended learning, no matter what the future holds for the field.