What Are the Different Models of Blended Learning?

Blended learning has become a buzzword in education, one that is touted whenever personalized or student-centered learning is discussed—which is, to say, quite often.

A blended learning program is any scenario in which a student learns (at least in part) online or through digital media. This is a broad definition, and the term “blended learning” can encompass several different education models and sub-models. In fact, you may receive wildly different answers as to how many blended learning models exist. However, there are four models that are commonly recognized as the crux of blended learning:

Flex learning

A flex model of blended learning is as close as you can get to a fully online course, while still maintaining some qualities of a hybrid model. In a flex model, online or digital-based lessons are considered the backbone of a student’s education. However, students learn using digital media in a brick and mortar classroom. Many classrooms that use a flex model utilize “playlists” of lecture videos and online activities, which students complete individually. This allows students to move at their own pace, and it creates time for the instructor to help each student individually.

Flex learning is growing in popularity, but one of the largest obstacles to this model is funding. A true flex model of learning requires each student to have access to his or her own technology, in addition to access to break-out sessions, science labs, and collaboration rooms. Perhaps the larger challenge, however, is the change of the teacher’s role from the center of the classroom to being a guide on the sidelines.

The flipped classroom

The flipped classroom may sound similar to a flex model. However, a flipped classroom puts nearly equal emphasis on online and in-class learning. A traditional classroom may feature a teacher presenting on a topic to the class as a whole, with limited time left over for personalized instruction or one-on-one help. With a flipped classroom, these lectures and other lessons are typically delivered online. Students can watch a lecture or read about a topic in their own time, which frees up class time for personalized learning activities and one-on-one help.

The goal of flipped learning is to engage students in more active learning—class time is spent exploring topics in depth, working in groups, or doing independent research. This can enhance lessons, but a model like this one also depends on students’ access to technology and theirability to self-motivate. Therefore, teachers should consider student motivation and access to technology before moving to a flipped classroom model (or trying the model with a new unit).

Beyond the technical requirements, the student is central to a flipped model—unlike a traditional model, where a teacher, who disseminates information and answers questions, is central. It may take time for both teachers and students to adjust to this change of focus.

Rotation models: station rotation and lab rotation

As the name implies, a station rotation model involves students rotating among various learning stations (at least one of which is an online learning station) within the same classroom for a given subject. “Stations” can include hands-on activities, small group instruction, individual help, and assignments. A defining feature of the station rotation model is that a classroom may move through stations as a whole or in small groups. This provides more flexibility for the instructor to provide the most individualized attention to each small group.

Similarly, the lab rotation model also involves rotating over the course of a day among different stations, but each station consists of a different subject area. In addition, an entire classroom of students physically moves from room to room. This change of environments is essential to the lab rotation model—it primes the student to learn a new subject in a different way. You may ask, “Where is the technology?” In this model, at least one of the stations is an online learning center or computer lab, where students primarily learn on their own with the assistance of an instructor.

The other stations may be traditional classrooms, where an instructor lectures on a particular topic to the class as a whole.

Many of these blended learning models share common features (in fact, many consider flipped classrooms to be a rotation model). Incorporating blended learning into your classroom is something that takes time and planning. Consider the benefits of each model, and which would be most feasible for your classroom. Can your school afford new technology for every student? Does each student in your classroom have access to reliable technology at home? These are factors to think through before moving your classroom into a blended learning environment.

Sydney MillerSydney Miller is an Online Marketing Coordinator for Varsity Tutors, the leading curated marketplace for the top private tutors in the U.S. The company also builds mobile learning apps, online tutoring environments, and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies.