Blended Learning

Blended Learning (BL) supports Personalized Learning. BL is an element of Ed Reform 2.0. or Future Ready Schools. A number of documents about Blended Learning are featured on this page with some information from each. As you read through the information, even if you do not read the full text of the documents, you likely will notice some common threads about BL.  On the surface, Blended Learning will sound great to a large number of people.  Under that surface, there are serious issues that cannot be overcome but likely will be smoothed over with enormous public relation promotions.  Isn’t it true that if they say it often enough it must be true?

Since Blended Learning relies heavily on technology, the same Big Data and student privacy concerns about Personalized Learning apply.

Some projections show that by 2019, two years from now, 50% of all high school courses will be delivered online. Is this something parents have asked for or is this something being imposed on our education system? Most reports don’t address this but there were some that gave indication that Blended Learning is a transition step in the shift from traditional education to a complete online education delivery.

Who seems to dominate the discussion about Blended Learning? Some of the major and information are produced by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) and the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation. Names that often come up are Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn, ad Heather Staker. They have provided a definition and model for Blended Learning that is repeated in many of the documents and appear to have become standard. In the information below, their definition and model may only be presented a couple of times even though they appear in many of the other reports.


Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalized, Blended and Competency mean-what-you-say-1Education provides a definition and a model for Blended Learning.

“Blended learning is a combination of face-to-face learning experiences and online learning platforms, content, and tools for personalizing instruction. True blended learning is a modality to realize a fundamental shift in the instructional model toward personalized learning.”

“Horn and Staker’s (2013) definition expresses 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.’”

An important component of this is the “element of student control.” This definition sets it apart from simpler definitions that define Blended Learning as combining online learning and brick-and-mortar learning.

“For blended learning modalities to create student-centered learning, teachers and students in the blended environment would:
1) understand the student’s experience and what level the student’s proficiency is upon entry;
2) enable an entire range of learning experiences and student services and supports for any time, every where learning;
3) expand and reshape the role of the educator; and
4) determine the student’s progression upon mastery, allowing them to move on when ready.”

This document presents Christensen, Horn and Staker’s four blended learning models.  This graphics shows the four models and expands on the Rotation model.



A Roadmap for Implementation of Blended Learning at the School Level: A Case Study of a-roadmap-for-implementationthe iLearnNYC Lab Schools provides the same definition and model as provided in the previous document.  In addition, this document provides some elements for planning and implementation.  Profiles of and promising practices at eight iZone “Lab Schools” implementing Blended Learning are developed in this report.

The Six Elements for Planning and Implementation of Blended Learning


  • What are the measurable goals of the program?
  • What student needs are being fulfilled by implementing blended learning?
  • What support systems are needed to build the program?
  • What funding will provide the support systems needed to build and sustain the program?

Professional Development

  • What type of professional development is needed for school leadership and blended learning teachers?
  • How will professional development be delivered and who will provide it?
  • How will ongoing and continuous professional development be provided?


  • How will teaching and the role of the teacher change?
  • How will student learning change?
  • What is the school’s pedagogical philosophy?
  • How will best teaching practices be modeled and shared?


  • How does this change the school day (scheduling)?
  • Which state, district, and/or local policies foster or inhibit implementation (testing, accountability)?
  • What data should be collected to support individualized student learning? What systems are in place to collect this data?


  • Is content aligned to the instructional goals of the program?
  • How will content be acquired?
  • Is content aligned to state standards?
  • How will the content be customized to meet student needs?


  • What technology is currently available and what investments need to be made to the school’s technological infrastructure, including but not limited to bandwidth, hardware, software, devices, and network?
  • What technical support for students and teachers is needed to maintain technological infrastructure (human, interoperability)?
  • How do we ensure interoperability between systems?


Classifying K-12 Blended Learninga provides the definition for Blended Learning as well Classifying-K-12-blended-learningas a slightly different presentation of the model of the four BL types.  Examples of each type are provided in the document.  The term online learning is used interchangeably with virtual learning, cyberlearning, and e-learning.

“Blended Learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace and at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home.”


Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning: Insights from Experts CompetencyWorks-Maximizing-Competency-Education-and-Blended-Learningprovides the same definition and model as other documents.  The experts providing insights for this report were “twenty-three technical assistance providers,” not parents or teachers.

Horn and Staker Three-Part Definition of Blended Learning

  • Blended learning is any formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.
  • Students learn at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home.
  • The modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide 
an integrated learning experience.

This seems to be the most frequently used definition of Blended Learning. It appears in most of the other documents presented on this page.


Online and Blended Learning: A Survey of Policy and Practice from K-12 Schools Around iNACOL_a-survey-of-policy-and-practicethe World presents five trends in Blended and Online Learning.

Trends in Blended and Online Learning

  • TREND ONE: Blended and online choices are most available to students in urban areas from developed countries.
  • TREND TWO: Growth in digital learning stems from shared authority between local schools and national governments.
  • TREND THREE: Specialized teacher training is not required but is encouraged and available.
  • TREND FOUR: Blended learning is occurring with much greater frequency than online learning.
  • TREND FIVE: Use of online learning is most prevalent by students with special circumstances.

Even though one trend indicates specialized teacher training is not required, the report indicates one issue is “The need to focus on teacher training and their role.”  The need for funding is brought up in this and other documents.


Blending Learning: The Evolution of Online and Face-to-Face Education from 2008–2015 iNACOL_Blended-Learning-The-Evolution-of-Online-And-Face-to-Face-Education-from-2008-2015presents the standard definition and four learning models.  This report provides case studies and promising practices.  It includes some key lessons learned.

One school district expresses this as one of the key implementation elements:

“Constant communication. Communication had to be constant and repetitive with “boorish redundancy.” Communications reached a variety of stakeholders; the district informed the parents and invited them to participate in evening meetings.”

There is no indication that this communication is two-way or that Blended Learning is something parents have asked for or if parents are being asked what they see as a need for their child’s education.

Key Lessons Learned from Blended Programs

 a school culture and climate dedicated to continuous improvement.
 blended learning goals and benefits.
  3. EXAMINE and update professional development needs.
 both system- and school-level barriers to implementation.

As with many other changes or shifts in education, Blended Learning is no different in identifying a need for professional development. The discussion about barriers to implementation identifies technology needs and financial limitations as barriers.


iNACOL Blended Learning Teacher Competency Framework provides just what the title iNACOL-Blended-Learning-Teacher-Competency-Frameworksay, a teacher competency framework for Blended Learning.    Do you see how this fits with the information provided in the web page titled Teaching Profession Future?


The Framework has four domains, each with specific competencies. The report presents standards for each competency.  Here are the domains with their competencies.


  • New vision for teaching and learning
  • Orientation toward change and improvement


  • Grit
  • Transparency
  • Collaboration

Adaptive Skills

  • Reflection
  • Continuous improvement and innovation
  • Communication

Technical Skills

  • Data Practices
  • Instructional Strategies
  • Management of Blended Learning Experience
  • Instructional Tools


Is K–12 Blended Learning Disruptive? An introduction of the theory of hybrids   presents Is-K-12-Blended-Learning-Disruptivesteps to foster disruptive innovation.

Five Steps to Foster Disruptive Innovation

  • Create a team within the school that is autonomous from all aspects of the traditional classroom.
  • Focus disruptive blended-learning models initially on areas of nonconsumption.
  • When ready to expand beyond areas of nonconsumption, look for the students with less demanding performance requirements.
  • Commit to protecting the fledgling disruptive project.
  • Push innovation-friendly policy.


What is Blended Learning? presents three components of Blended Learning and some key areas for facilitators to focus on.  Make note of the shift from teacher to facilitator.

Primary Components of Blended Learning

  • In-person classroom activities facilitated by a trained educator.
  • Online learning materials, often including pre-recorded lectures given by that same instructor.
  • Structured independent study time guided by the material in the lectures and skills developed during the classroom experience.

Key Areas for Facilitators to Focus on for Blended Learning

  • Development of online and offline course content.
  • Facilitation of communication with and among students, including the pedagogy of communicating content online without the contextual clues students would get in person.
  • Guiding the learning experience of individual students, and customizing material wherever possible to strengthen the learning experience.
  • Assessment and grading, not unlike the expectations for teachers within the traditional framework.


Digital Learning Now!  This document is not specifically about Blended Learning. It does Roadmap-for-Reformlist 10 Elements of High Quality Learning as identified by a group convened by Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.  The document presents policies to achieve each Element.

10 Elements of High Quality Learning

  • All students are digital learners.
  • All students have access to high quality digital learning.
  • All students can use digital learning to customize their education.
  • All students progress based on demonstrated competency.
  • Digital content and courses are high quality.
  • Digital instruction is high quality.
  • All students have access to multiple high quality digital learning providers.
  • Student learning is the metric for evaluating the quality of content, courses, schools and instruction.
  • Funding provides incentives for performance, options and innovations.
  • Infrastructure supports digital learning.