Teacher Education

The Nitty-Gritty of Blended Learning Models

The Nitty-Gritty of Blended Learning Models

A study from the Center for Digital Education found that 73% of educators practicing blended learning saw an increase in student engagement. 

Blended learning can transform the learning process, but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula. In fact, there are four different blended learning models: rotation, flex, a la carte, and enriched virtual. To understand blended learning models, here are the basics. 

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Rotation Model

I remember transitioning to different “learning stations” in my fourth-grade class. We’d rotate from station to station, focusing on a different concept at each. 

The rotation model is similar with one big difference: online learning is incorporated into the mix. 

Students rotate through different stations on a fixed schedule. Educators can adapt and make changes to meet student needs. The rotation model can be practiced in several ways: Station rotation, lab rotation, flipped classroom, and individual rotation. 

Station Rotation

Students rotate through each station in a contained classroom, not just the stations on their fixed schedules.

Lab Rotation

Students rotate to a computer lab for online learning.

Flipped Classroom

Students watch online lectures at home and do homework together in class.

Individual Rotation

Teachers set individual student rotation schedules based on each student’s needs.

Making Adjustments

With time, the rotation model may feel constricting because teachers are limited in personalizing instruction. Struggling students may not receive the attention they need before moving on to the next station. But there are ways to focus on the student rather than the model.

Angela Jones, a 4th-grade teacher at Bella Romero Academy found herself in a similar position. Here are a few adjustments she made to the rotation model to improve student outcomes:

  • Stopped operating on set rotation times
  • Changed rotation groups as needed
  • Tutored struggling students individually

Read the full case study from the Christensen Institute to learn more about Jones’s improvements.

Flex Model

The flex model is flexible! No, really. Classroom resources are available online, and lessons are self-guided.

While online learning is the foundation of the flex model, offline activities still take place. Students work independently at a brick-and-mortar campus, receiving instructor help when needed. 

An Example from the Classroom

Students using the flex model work at their own pace, which can be a difficult transition.

Innovations Early College High School in Salt Lake City opted to add more structure to the flex model for struggling students by piloting a testing room. 

Students who had trouble with efficiency were required to work with tutors, meet with teachers, and complete a minimum quantity of work in the testing room each day. Each student partnered with a mentor teacher responsible for supporting the student’s progress. 

The testing room provided extra support for students to catch up and work efficiently. This approach assisted each student and their individual needs. 

A la Carte Model

The a la Carte model allows students to take courses that are entirely online in addition to face-to-face courses. Often students take core classes on campus and electives at home. Instructor support is offered through Skype, email, and forums.

Pick Your State

Alabama, Florida, Michigan, and Virginia all support the a la Carte model

In these four states, students are required to take at least one online course before high school graduation. The goal is to introduce students to virtual learning before beginning college or entering the workforce

The benefits? Students can take classes beyond what’s offered at school. And learning can take place anytime, anywhere.

Blended learning models allow learning to take place anytime, anywhere. Click To Tweet

Enriched Virtual Model

Similar to the flipped classroom, the enriched virtual model allows students to watch lectures at home and do homework in class. But enriched virtual programs don’t usually require daily attendance. A brick-and-mortar campus is there to enhance the experience while the majority of learning takes place at home. 

The Model in Action

Jenifer Scott of Aiken Virtual and Kristie Burk of Downington Area School District discuss their experiences with the enriched virtual model in a post from Blended Learning Universe. They explain that on days when class is not held, students can see teachers for additional help, go to the library, or study on campus. 

Scott and Burk share their experiences in implementing the enriched virtual model. Here are a few of their top tips:

  • Start small
  • Use information obtained from similar programs to make growth less painful
  • Don’t underestimate the amount of professional development required
  • Share ideas with other teachers

To learn about the benefits and challenges of implementing an enriched virtual model, read the full Q+A.

Blended Learning Models for the Win

As you can see, blended learning models provide many benefits. And the best part? Each model can be modified and adapted to meet specific needs. While one size does not fit all, there’s room for everybody to adopt blended learning into their classroom.