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Blended Learning


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What is blended learning?

Blended learning, or hybrid learning, is a formal education program that integrates face-to-face learning with technology-based, digital instruction. Learning takes place in (or in a combination of) online, mobile, or classroom environments. There is usually some element of student control over time, place, path and/or pace, in combination with in-person classroom or virtual one-on-one instruction. The degree of interaction, technology use, and student control depends on which of the six blended learning education models is being used. DreamBox Learning© Math can be used to support all six models.

It’s also a way to create more personalized learning. Teachers can give students what they need, when they need it, particularly in core subjects like math, at the elementary and high school level.  It makes learning more productive by giving teachers better tools, more time, and data to inform instruction.

Learn more about what a recent Getting Smart recap article with links to research says about the value of blended learning.

Read what the Christensen Institute says about taking advantage of and designing education around blended learning models.

Why blending learning is important

The World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. 48th out of 133 developed and developing nations in math and science instruction.  These low ratings have been a cause for concern and were to some degree the impetus for the development of the Common Core State Standards and other new state standards, which focus on math and language arts learning, 21st century skills, and science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM.  According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the math skills that students learn at a young age build a foundation for future learning, so there has been a focus on using technology to build those abilities.

Learn more about the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, which formed to make the U.S. more competitive by emphasizing 21st Century skills and blended learning.

Blended learning models in U.S. education

As noted above, in an increasingly competitive world, our schools must move into high-performance mode, and leverage technology to advance education— just as we have used it to advance business. This has brought new focus to digital learning methods blended learning, personalized learning, individualized learning, and adaptive learning.

The U.S. Department of Education is a proponent of blended learning, as a way to provide more individualized learning, broaden access for all students in K-12 and higher education, and to reduce costs while improving educational productivity.

Learn more about why the U.S. Department of Education endorses blended learning efficiency.

Blended learning models

In every model of blended learning, the personalization of content is crucial to the success of the learner and the program. Rather than a one-size-fits-all model, the goal is to achieve a one-size-fits-one solution. That can mean that more than one of the models can be used at different times in the learning experience.


Source: Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation

The Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation has recently updated its classification of blended learning models that are currently in use. Rotation models and their variants are most widely used in elementary grades because they rely on instructors/educational guides:

  1. Rotation model — Students shift between learning modalities, with at least one mode as online learning.
    1. Station Rotation (also referred to as Classroom Rotation or In-Class Rotation) — Within a given course or subject, with at least one station for online learning, students rotate on a fixed schedule or at the teacher’s discretion among classroom-based learning modalities. Other stations might include activities such as small-group or full-class instruction, group projects, individual tutoring, and pencil-and-paper assignments. Some implementations involve the entire class alternating among activities together, whereas others divide the class into small-group or one-by-one rotations.
    2. Lab Rotation — Within a given course or subject, students rotate on a fixed schedule or at the teacher’s discretion among locations on the brick-and-mortar campus. At least one is a learning lab for online learning, and the other(s) are classroom(s) for other learning modalities. The Lab Rotation model differs from the Station Rotation model, because students rotate among locations on the campus instead of staying in one classroom for the blended course or subject.
    3. Flipped Classroom — Within a given course or subject, students rotate on a fixed schedule between face-to-face teacher-guided practice (or projects) on campus during the standard school day and online delivery of content and instruction of the same subject from a remote location (often home) after school. The primary delivery of content and instruction is online, which differentiates a Flipped Classroom from students who are only doing homework practice online at night. The Flipped Classroom model includes some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace because the model allows students to choose the location where they receive content and instruction online.
    4. Individual Rotation — Within a given course or subject (e.g., math), students rotate on an individually customized, fixed schedule among learning modalities, at least one of which is online learning. An algorithm or teacher sets individual student schedules. This model differs from the other Rotation models because students do not necessarily rotate to each available station or modality.
      The next three models tend to be better suited to students past Grade 5, since they require greater self-direction:
  2. Flex model — The emphasis is on online learning, even if it directs students to offline activities at times. Students move on an individually customized, fluid schedule among learning modalities, and the teacher of record is on-site. The teacher-of-record or other learning guide provides face-to-face support on a flexible and adaptive as-needed basis through activities such as small-group instruction, group projects, and individual tutoring.
  3. A La Carte model — Students take one or more courses entirely online with an online teacher of record and at the same time continue to have brick-and-mortar educational experiences. Students may take the online courses either on the brick-and-mortar campus or off-site. This differs from full-time online learning and the Enriched Virtual model because it is not a whole-school experience.
  4. Enriched Virtual model — A whole-school experience in which within each course, students divide their time between attending a brick-and-mortar campus and learning remotely using online delivery of content and instruction. Many Enriched Virtual programs began as full-time online schools and then developed blended programs to provide students with brick-and-mortar school experiences. Different from the Flipped Classroom, students seldom attend the brick-and-mortar campus every weekday. It differs from the A La Carte model because it is a whole-school experience, not a course-by-course model.

Blended learning benefits

Blended learning combines face-to-face instruction and the smart use of advanced digital learning technologies to deliver multiple benefits:

  • Greater personalization – Enables both advanced and at-risk students to learn at their own level/pace.  Simultaneously.
  • Anytime, anywhere learning – Online instruction, mobile technology, in either a classroom/lab setting or access from remote locations home computer), both during or outside of scheduled classroom periods.
  • Boosts engagement and confidence – Develops independent learning skills and determination of place and pace build confidence.
  • Improves teaching conditions – New tools equip teachers with useful data to help shape appropriate interventions and learning pathways. Personalized learning technology that creates autonomous learning time for students opens up time for teachers to work with individual students and small groups.

Implementing blended learning models in elementary schools

When K–12 educators and administrators consider implementing a blended learning approach in their schools, they look to align with new standards, they quickly realize there are many decisions to be made. While software and hardware are important, the guiding force must be student learning goals and district objectives. As these goals and objectives are articulated, whether they are Common Core State Standards or others, they must act as the filter for selecting technological learning resources and selecting models.

Blended learning and technology

With lower device costs, increasing availability of Internet access, and engaging and sophisticated adaptive learning software systems and tools, it is easier than it has ever been to integrate blended learning into schools. Teachers can become more productive and student accomplishment can be accelerated to better prepare our children for college, successful careers, and flourishing lives. Learn what the Fraser Institute has to say and research around the importance of technology in schools.

Adaptive learning, data collection, and  blended learning

A key component of successfully delivering blended learning— and the highly personalized learning that results from it— is the ability to leverage data in real time. Intelligent Adaptive Learning uses in-the-moment data to seamlessly integrate instruction with assessment to complement all six models of blended learning.

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