George Lucas Educational Foundation

Online Differentiation

Online Differentiation

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I know it's a scary word, but I have an intriguing question regarding differentiation and distance learning: providing an online option in distance learning is a form of differentiation, right? Well, how do we differentiate within those online classes? Hmmm..... -Heather Wolpert-Gawron

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Andrew Pass's picture

Great question and I'm not sure if I have any answers. But, I'd like to take a stab at extending the conversation, here.

Basically, if I understand, you are making the point that differentiation is extremely important in education. Not every child learns the same way. Three dominant learning styles are kinesthetic, visual, and auditory. Teachers recognize that they sometimes must help specific students learn particular concepts or skills in unique ways. Educators have learned a great deal about differentiating in face to face classes.

However, the question is, how can differentiation occur in online classes? Of course, computer technology can deliver information in a myriad of different ways - through written text, video, and even interaction. So, there's no reason why differentiation can't occur in online classes. However, I'd also argue that it would be far more time consuming for single educators to develop multiple ways of teaching online classes than it would be for educators to do this in face to face settings. Consequently, I also think that this objective could lead to collaborative course development.

Just some out loud thinking.

Bill Weaver's picture
Bill Weaver
Chairman of the Alpine (CA) High School Citizens Committee,

I believe it is actually easier to differentiate on-line, more so than in the classroom, with the right approach, using technology; IT based differentiation can assess, and differentiate automatically as one seeks to answer learning tasks and software adjusts itself based on right and wrong approaches re: the students actual problem solving abilities... just food for thought. Review this link for more thoughts;

Susan Walker's picture
Susan Walker
Elementary English teacher at a bilingual School in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Last year our ten year old pupils(they learn English as a second language) were exposed to a totally new learning environment, a Virtual Campus which was used as a tool for "Blended Learning" in different subjects. Every student was given a username and a password to enter the virtual campus.
One of the courses was a unit on Nutrition. It involved e-learning (electronic learning) in the computer laboratory, from a site specially designed by their teachers. The campus included videos, links, games, polls, forums, tests and surveys, chat and e-mail, a glossary and a section for frequently asked questions. Among the numerous advantages of this method, we would specially like to mention that students were highly motivated and they acquired autonomy in the learning process. They became the protagonists of their learning experience, while the teacher was only a facilitator. Furthermore, they worked at their own pace, according to individual learning styles: visual learners could read while auditory ones could listen to the text recorded by the teachers in mp3 format or else use both methods and even enlarge the text in case of special difficulties. Moreover, students were involved in a continuous, on-going self-assessment process through several multiple choice tests. Other advantages included the possibility to log on from any place as the Campus is online, and the teacher's permanent access to view all statistics and follow each students` progress.
Other class activities, including individual, pair and team work, were carried out through differentiated instruction catering for the students' learning styles.

It was absolutely great so that`s why Imwould like to share it with you!


Mark Arnold's picture
Mark Arnold
Educational Technology Specialist

We are working very hard to have our educators construct or extend their face-to-face classroom practices through the use of technology... as a foundation for moving the context of differentiation beyond the classroom walls. It seems like doing so brings more depth to the concepts of differentiation and life to many that teachers are missing when they are trapped thinking in traditional ways about learning practices in their classrooms.

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