Some Important Learning Definitions

Definitions are difficult sometimes, particularly when you’re dealing with a topic as abstract and , well…hard to define such as learning.  Knowledge is transferred and absorbed in many different ways.  Even more so in an age of hyper-speed technology, where access to information is available at any time, from any location, through a wide range of channels and devices.

The definitions below were originally published in the Getting Smart blog.  I think they’ve got a pretty good list, and the explanations are concise and helpful.

Blended learning is “a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through the online delivery of content and instruction, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace, and at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home” (Source: Christensen Institute (formerly Innosight). Compared to high-access environments, which simply provide devices for students, blended learning includes an intentional shift to online instructional delivery for a portion of the day in order to boost student, teacher and school productivity.  As Opportunity Culture outlines, that implies new school models, staffing structures, schedules, and resource allocation pattern. While 1 to 1 initiatives add computers to schools, blended learning changes everything.

Online learning is teacher-led education that takes place over the Internet using a web-based educational delivery system that includes software to provide a structured learning environment. The teacher and student are usually separated geographically, and classes may be delivered synchronously (communication in which participants interact in real time, such as online video) or asynchronously (communication separated by time, such as email or online discussion forums). It may be accessed from multiple settings (in school or out of school buildings) (Source: Keeping Pace).

Personalized learning is paced to student needs, tailored to learning preferences, and customized to the specific interests of different learners. Technology gives students opportunities to take ownership of their learning (Source:National Education Technology Plan).

Customized learning is informed by enhanced and expanded student data, which is applied to boost motivation and achievement, keeping more students on track for college and career readiness (see Data Backpacks: Portable Records and Learner Profiles). We use the term “customized learning” to refer to an expanded and enhanced version of personalization focused on individual student pathways driven by interests and best learning modalities. As adaptive learning becomes more sophisticated, learner profiles will be able to recommend experiences likely to result in learning and persistence.

Competency-based learning is a system of education, often referred to as proficiency or mastery based, in which students advance based on demonstration of mastery. Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students. Assessment is meaningful and serves as a positive learning experience for students. Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs. Learning outcomes include the application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions (Source: CompetencyWorks).

Digital learning, as used by Digital Learning Now! and others, refers to all of the above–full and part time access to online and blended learning.

Jason Silberman
Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog
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