What is Blended Learning?

What exactly does Blended Learning mean?

The Innosight Institute suggests that “Blended learning is any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace” (p. 3).

Blended learning is also commonly referred to as hybrid learning.

Six models of blended learning approaches seem to be prevalent in K-12 education:

1 – Face-to-Face Driver. In this model, teachers deliver most instruction in a live classroom. They use online activities to supplement or reteach classroom learning as necessary. This often takes place at the back of the classroom or in a computer lab.

2 – Rotation. This model features students rotating between face-to-face class sessions and individual, self-paced online learning within the same subject area. The classroom teacher usually oversees the online work. A fixed schedule usually outlines when students are receiving class instruction and when they are working individually, whether at school or remotely.

3 – Flex. The flex model is based on curriculum that has been developed and provided online. It features an on-site teacher who provides instruction as needed in individual tutoring and small group sessions.

4 – Online Lab. This model is takes place in a school’s computer lab where students follow entire courses online. The courses part of the school’s general curriculum, yet are provided by online teachers and content-area specialists. The school provides a computer lab and necessary supervision. Paraprofessionals offer the necessary supervision and provide limited, if any, content expertise. Students in this model usually take other traditional courses and follow a typical school schedule.

5 – Self-Blend. In this model, students take online courses à la carte to supplement their school’s curriculum. This is different from the online lab model in that the learning is always remote, rather than being organized by the school. This model is currently the most common version of blended learning in schools.

6 – Online Driver. The online driver model expects students to take most of their courses online and independently. Other on-site requirements, such as extracurricular activities, may be required as part of the overall school experience.

Which model would seem to be most appropriate forms of instruction and learning as we plan for a new Christian high school?

My initial thoughts are that the flex, online lab and self-blend models would serve our students well.

The initial school population will be limited, as will the number of certified teachers. As a result, this limitation will impact overall course offerings. Nevertheless, in order to provide a wide choice of course electives and supplement those subject areas where instruction may be more difficult to offer, these models can provide some viable alternatives.

The flex model will allow our teachers to take advantage of standards-based curriculum that has been developed and tested in an online format, and then supplement the instruction as needed in individual tutoring and small group sessions. This could work nicely for a subject-area specialist who can work with students in multiple grade levels. For example, the time-table would be organized such that all students take “science” at the same time, but have their learning differentiated according to either grade level or subject level. The students would then progress individually based on their ability and interest. The science teacher would provide instructional assistance as necessary. In this format, the science teacher could be working with freshman and sophomore science students at the same time, and even work with one student taking a course in a specialized science, too.

The Online Lab model might be appropriate for those general courses that are needed for graduation, but cannot be offered in a small school setting, such as, for example, a class in world history or western civilization literature. When these classes are offered in the regular timetable, lab supervision would be provided by a paraprofessional, thus allowing the faculty to focus on their other classes, or even use the time for collaborative planning.

The Self-Blend model allows the school to offer a wide selection of electives that would otherwise never be offered. Students could choose from online options such as AP Environmental Science, music appreciation, macroeconomics, etc. The choice may only be limited by the electives through a course provider.


Horn, M. B., & Staker, H. (2011). The rise of K-12 blended learning. Innosight Institute.

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