Blended learning

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Education policy logo.jpg

Education policy in the U.S.
Public education in the U.S.
School choice in the U.S.
Charter schools in the U.S.
Higher education in the U.S.
State public education information
Higher education by state
Glossary of education terms
Education statistics
See also
Blended learning, also known as "hybrid learning" or "mixed-mode" learning, generally describes the practice of combining online, digital or computer-based learning methods--where students have some control over when, where, how and how fast they learn--with traditional face-to-face instruction at a location away from home. As practiced in classrooms, blended learning models can vary significantly from school to school, as there are at least six different models of blended learning. Blended learning represents a very different way of delivering education, which is flexible, differentiated, personalized and technologically driven. Teachers guide and support students individually or in small groups, and students work independently or in small groups at their own speed in a digital format. As a form of competency-based learning, students are constantly being assessed and advancing according to their own achievement. Thus, for example, students take tests when they are ready, for which they receive grades almost immediately, and advance at different speeds, not necessarily with their age cohort.

Blended learning is a hot topic among educators who believe technology-aided learning is the most innovative, and potentially most vital way to improve student performance. They describe blended learning not as an education reform, but as a transformation, because it would change the way students are assessed by getting rid of the Carnegie unit, which is based on seat-time, as the standard measure for assessment. Critics, however, are skeptical of the educational utility and value of online learning, and claim it may be not be suitable for some teachers, who are less technologically literate and thus require more training, and less self-motivated students, who require more supervision.[1][2][3]


In The Handbook of Blended Learning: Global Perspectives, Local Designs, Charles R. Graham posits the following basic definition of blended learning: "Blended learning systems combine face-to-face instruction with computer-mediated instruction." Graham emphasizes that blended learning "is the combination of instruction from two historically separate models of teaching and learning: traditional face-to-face learning systems and distributed learning systems."[2]

The Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation offers a more detailed definition of the term:[4]

Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns:
  1. At least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace;
  2. At least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home;
  3. And the modalities along each student's learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.[5]

Blended learning models

According to the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a leader in the field of blended learning development, "the majority of blended-learning programs resemble one of four models: Rotation, Flex, A La Carte, and Enriched Virtual. The Rotation model includes four sub-models: Station Rotation, Lab Rotation, Flipped Classroom, and Individual Rotation." They define those models as follows:[6]

  1. Rotation model: "a course or subject in which students rotate on a fixed schedule or at the teacher’s discretion between learning modalities, at least one of which is online learning. Other modalities might include activities such as small-group or full-class instruction, group projects, individual tutoring, and pencil-and-paper assignments. The students learn mostly on the brick-and-mortar campus, except for any homework assignments."
    1. Station Rotation: "a course or subject in which students experience the Rotation model within a contained classroom or group of classrooms. The Station Rotation model differs from the Individual Rotation model because students rotate through all of the stations, not only those on their custom schedules."
    2. Lab Rotation: "a course or subject in which students rotate to a computer lab for the online-learning station."
    3. Flipped Classroom: "a course or subject in which students participate in online learning off-site in place of traditional homework and then attend the brick-and-mortar school for face-to-face, teacher-guided practice or projects. The primary delivery of content and instruction is online, which differentiates a Flipped Classroom from students who are merely doing homework practice online at night."
    4. Individual Rotation: "a course or subject in which each student has an individualized playlist and does not necessarily rotate to each available station or modality. An algorithm or teacher(s) sets individual student schedules."
  2. Flex model: "a course or subject in which online learning is the backbone of student learning, even if it directs students to offline activities at times. Students move on an individually customized, fluid schedule among learning modalities. The teacher of record is on-site, and students learn mostly on the brick-and-mortar campus, except for any homework assignments. The teacher of record or other adults provide face-to-face support on a flexible and adaptive as-needed basis through activities such as small-group instruction, group projects, and individual tutoring. Some implementations have substantial face-to-face support, whereas others have minimal support. For example, some Flex models may have face-to-face certified teachers who supplement the online learning on a daily basis, whereas others may provide little face-to-face enrichment. Still others may have different staffing combinations."
  3. A La Carte model: "a course that a student takes entirely online to accompany other experiences that the student is having at a brick-and-mortar school or learning center. The teacher of record for the A La Carte course is the online teacher. Students may take the A La Carte course either on the brick-and-mortar campus or off-site. This differs from full-time online learning because it is not a whole-school experience. Students take some courses A La Carte and others face-to-face at a brick-and-mortar campus."
  4. Enriched Virtual model: "a course or subject in which students have required face-to-face learning sessions with their teacher of record and then are free to complete their remaining coursework remote from the face-to-face teacher. Online learning is the backbone of student learning when the students are located remotely. The same person generally serves as both the online and face-to-face teacher. Many Enriched Virtual programs began as full-time online schools and then developed blended programs to provide students with brick-and-mortar school experiences. The Enriched Virtual model differs from the Flipped Classroom because in Enriched Virtual programs, students seldom meet face-to-face with their teachers every weekday. It differs from a fully online course because face-to-face learning sessions are more than optional office hours or social events; they are required."

Use in elementary and secondary education settings

The Evergreen Education Group, a consulting and advisory firm, publishes an annual review of online and blended learning policy entitled Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning. In the 2013 edition of Keeping Pace, the Evergreen Education Group counted 75 fully blended schools in 24 states and the District of Columbia (using the Clayton Christensen Institute definition of blended learning, noted above). Those states are as follows:[7]

According to Keeping Pace, "fully blended schools are often charter schools, although they may be non-charter district schools that take a whole-school blended approach in instruction. Charter or innovation status is particularly important when students have some control over when they come to school."[7]

According to a public opinion survey conducted by the Center for Education Reform in September and October 2013, nearly 70 percent of parents support digital learning initiatives (including blended learning). The survey also found that 63 percent of men and 60 percent of women viewed the term "blended learning" favorably. Furthermore, 54 percent of African Americans, 38 percent of Hispanics, and 54 percent of low-income Americans "would be more likely to send their child to a school that offered blended learning."[8][9][10]


Proponents' arguments

According to the Glossary of Education Reform, proponents generally make the following arguments in favor of blended learning:[1]

Blended learning may ... allow teachers to spend less time giving whole-class lessons, and more time meeting with students individually or in small groups to help them with specific concepts, skills, questions, or learning problems—the basic educational rationale behind “flipped classrooms” or “flipped instruction,” a form of blended learning. Blended learning may also allow schools to teach more students more efficiently at a lower cost to the school and—in the case of higher education—the student. And because students are required to use digital and online technologies in blended-learning situations, they naturally acquire more technological literacy and greater confidence using new technologies. Some supporters may also argue that the blended-learning approach more closely resembles modern workplaces, in which employees may work largely on their own to meet specific objectives, only periodically checking in with their supervisors to give them updates or seek assistance. In this case, students would also be learning skills such as self-discipline, self-motivation, and organizational habits they will need in adult life.[5]


According to the Glossary of Education Reform, critics generally make the following arguments against blended learning:[1]

Critics of blended-learning experiences may ... question whether the practice can provide students with enough personal attention, guidance, and assistance from teachers, especially for students who may not be self-directed, self-disciplined, or organized enough to learn effectively without regular supervision from teachers and adults. Without in-person supervision, for example, students could easily spend more of their study time using social media and chatting with friends than doing their schoolwork. Critics also question whether teachers have received or will receive adequate training in how to instruct students effectively in a blended-learning context, given that the practice requires teachers to use new technologies and, possibly, more sophisticated instructional practices. Some educators also express concern that blended learning is merely a way for states or schools to reduce labor costs by substituting technology for people, which could result in teacher lay-offs, higher student-teacher ratios, unforeseen educational deficits, and other potential negative outcomes. Still other critics may simply dismiss blended learning as a passing educational fad. Another complicating factor is the rapid proliferation of for-profit enterprises that are selling digital-learning packages and online-learning systems to schools—a trend that has raised significant concerns about the potential for profiteering and low-quality educational services and products.[5]

Studies and reports

U.S. Department of Education

In September 2010, the United States Department of Education published a meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Reviewing 50 studies (43 of which dealt with post-secondary students), the department found that "students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction." Furthermore, the department noted that blended learning approaches "had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction than did purely online instruction." However, the department also noted the paucity of "rigorous research studies of online learning for K-12 students."[11]

International Association for K-12 Online Learning

In October 2013, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, an online learning advocacy group, published a study entitled "Transforming K-12 Rural Education through Blended Learning: Barriers and Promising Practices." Surveying more than 600 educators in the state of Idaho, researchers asked teachers who had implemented blended learning methods in their classrooms questions in five areas: general uses, student academic achievement, student engagement, communication and teaching impact. Some key findings are as follows:[12]

  • Academic ability: 67.7 percent of teachers indicated that students' ability to locate resources was either better or much better in their classes that utilized blended learning methods.
  • Student engagement: 65.4 percent of teachers reported that students' motivation to participate in class was either better or much better in their classes that utilized blended learning methods.
  • Communication: 87 percent of teachers reported that communications between parent-teacher, student-student, and teacher-teacher were either the same or better after the use of blended learning methods.
  • Teaching impact: 77.5 percent of teachers reported that their ability to monitor student learning was better or much better in their classes that utilized blended learning methods.

The complete report can be accessed here.

Digital Learning Now

Digital Learning Now's 2013 "Digital Learning Report Card"
Source: Digital Learning Now, "2013 Report Card," accessed June 27, 2014

Digital Learning Now (DLN), an initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, publishes an annual "Digital Learning Report Card," which "measures state policies on digital learning based on their alignment with the '10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning.'" Those 10 elements are as follows:[13]

  1. Student eligibility: All students are digital learners.
  2. Student access: All students have access to high-quality digital content and online courses.
  3. Personalized learning: All students can customize their education using digital content through an approved provider.
  4. Advancement: Students progress based on demonstrated competency.
  5. Quality content: Digital content, instructional materials, and online and blended learning courses are high quality.
  6. Quality instruction: Digital instruction is high-quality.
  7. Quality choices: All students have access to multiple high quality providers.
  8. Assessment and accountability: Student learning is the metric for evaluating the quality of content and instruction.
  9. Funding: Funding creates incentives for performance, options, and innovation.
  10. Delivery: Infrastructure supports digital learning.[5]

Only two states -- Utah and Florida -- earned "A" grades in DLN's assessment. More than half of the states in the nation earned "D" or "F" grades. For a full state-by-state breakdown, please see the color-coded map to the right.[13]

The full report can be accessed here.

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Blended + Learning"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Blended Learning News Feed

  • Loading...

See also

External links

Additional reading

Advocacy groups


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Glossary of Education Reform, "Blended Learning," updated August 29, 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bonk, C. J. (ed.), Graham, C. R., et al. (2006). The Handbook of Blended Learning: Global Perspectives, Local Designs. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer
  3. The Center for Education Reform, "Blended learning models," accessed June 26, 2014
  4. Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, "Blended Learning," accessed June 25, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  6. Christensen Institute, "Blended Learning Model Definitions," accessed August 12, 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning, "2013 - An Annual Review of Policy and Practice," accessed June 25, 2014
  8. The Center for Education Reform, "The Facts About Digital and Blended Learning," February 2014
  9. The Center for Education Reform, "America's Attitudes Towards Education Reform: Introduction and Methodology," accessed June 27, 2014
  10. The Center for Education Reform, "America's Attitudes Towards Education Reform: Executive Summary," October 9, 2013
  11. United States Department of Education, "Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies," September 2010
  12. International Association for K-12 Online Learning, "Transforming K-12 Rural Education through Blended Learning :Barrier and Promising Practices," October 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 Digital Learning Now, "2013 Report Card," accessed June 27, 2014