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What is Blended Learning?

As districts across the country continue to search for new and better ways to incorporate technology into the classroom, the term "blended learning" is often heard as an innovative solution. But what is blended learning, and how is it different from just having computers in the classroom like most schools do now?

Blended learning is defined as the combination of traditional face-to face teaching and learning with new technology solutions designed to promote individualized learning.  Blended learning is different from pure online learning alone because it still requires face-to-face interactions.

Among some of the advantages attributed to blended learning include teachers being better able to adapt instruction to individual students' needs and the ability for students to take direct control of their learning experience through increased accessibility to course materials and connections to 'real-life' applications.

Recent research supports that blended learning, when appropriately implemented, can produce stronger student learning outcomes than face-to-face instruction alone[1]. The use of this type of learning requires a modification of traditional teaching practices, such as lectures and paper-and-pencil activities, to include more student engagement and interaction with both the teacher and other students around the content.

There are a number specific models for incorporating blended learning into the school environment, including:

  1. Face-to-Face Driver: In this model the teachers decides when and how to implement the use of technology, depending on the particular situation.
  2. Rotation: A combination of traditional instruction time with a fixed schedule for online learning.
  3. Flex:  In this model, most of the instruction is done online. Teachers provide support as the students need it, either individually or in small groups.
  4. Self-Blend: This model is common in high schools now, in which students traditional learning with some online courses.
  5. Online Driver: The entire curriculum is delivered online. Required interactions with teachers are less frequent than in other models, but available at student request and occasionally mandatory.

School districts have several options for implementing blended learning programs as they seek to offer the best quality education possible, even with increasingly tight budgets.

Blended learning, though, requires a change in the way classes are traditionally taught as well as changes in the roles of teachers and students. While more research is still needed to evaluate the impact of blended learning on student outcomes, current evidence suggest that blended learning is a promising potential option for helping students learn in a way that better supports their individual needs.

 

-- Maira Martelo


[1] Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., & Baki, M. (2013). The effectiveness of online and blended learning: A meta-analysis of the empirical literature.Teachers College Record, 115, 1-47.