Blended learning: How does it work?

“Blended learning” — a mix of virtual and face-to-face instruction — is all the rage, endorsed by a 2009 Education Department meta-analysis. Education Week looks at how it works.

“Everybody’s talking about blended, but you talk to ten different people, and there are ten definitions of what it is,” said Steven Guttentag, the executive vice president and chief education officer of the Baltimore-based Connections Academy, which operates online schools in 21 states.

At the Chicago Virtual Charter School, a partnership with K12 Inc., an e-learning company, “each student spends two hours and 15 minutes in a classroom one day a week and spends the rest of the school week working virtually from home.” Students, who are in kindergarten through 12th grade, meet with the same teacher online and in the classroom.

The Florida Virtual School (FLVS) uses several models. In one, students meet in a classroom or computer lab to learn from an online instructor. A site facilitator monitors students, solves technical problems and answers basic questions.

In another model, a site facilitator works with students who are all taking the same online class to set up experiments, for instance, or help with collaborative, in-person activities.

In yet another approach, online instructors can team up with face-to-face teachers to co-teach a course, said Ms. Young.

Although that model is more expensive for schools, “it’s a really awesome opportunity for teachers who are new to the profession or new to the subject area,” she said.

While students receive the benefit of being taught by an experienced online instructor, the in-person teacher simultaneously receives training in how to teach the course.

Louisiana Virtual School pairs an uncertified, in-class math teacher with an online certified Algebra 1 instructor. The two teachers meet face to face during the summer, then communicate daily through e-mail during the school year.

The online instructor provides the initial lesson, and the classroom teacher works with students to complete activities that reinforce the concepts.

The in-class teacher also monitors the classroom activity labs with students; they break into groups of three or four and work together to complete a lab. The results of the lab are then sent to the online instructor for review.

Iowa Learning Online, which is run by the state, requires a school district employee, usually a teacher, to serve as a learning coach for each online student.

In another story, Ed Week looks at state efforts to certify virtual educators, even though “research shows that the true test of how well teachers will do in an online environment is still largely their effectiveness in a traditional classroom.”

About Joanne


  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    “all the rage”
    Is it necessary to read any further?

  2. Diana Senechal says:

    The USDOE meta-analysis is mostly about higher and specialized education. The researchers found only nine K-12 studies and used five.

    From pp. xi-xii of the study:

    “An unexpected finding of the literature search, however, was the small number of published studies contrasting online and face-to-face learning conditions for K–12 students. Because the search encompassed the research literature not only on K–12 education but also on career technology, medical and higher education, as well as corporate and military training, it yielded enough studies with older learners to justify a quantitative meta-analysis. Thus, analytic findings with implications for K–12 learning are reported here, but caution is required in generalizing to the K–12 population because the results are derived for the most part from studies in other settings (e.g., medical training, higher education).”

    Also, from pp. xv-xvi:

    “Though positive, the mean effect size is not significant for the seven contrasts involving K–12 students, but the number of K–12 studies is too small to warrant much confidence in the mean effect estimate for this learner group. Three of the K–12 studies had significant effects favoring a blended learning condition, one had a significant negative effect favoring face-to-face instruction, and three contrasts did not attain statistical significance. The test for learner type as a moderator variable was nonsignificant.”

  3. I wish there was a school in my area that offered part-time enrollment. Certain subjects are difficult for parents to teach in a homeschool environment- lab science, art, music, PE, etc. It would be nice to be able to teach the core subjects at home in the morning and then have my kids go to school in the afternoon to take these kinds of electives.

  4. Stacy in NJ says:

    I’m right there with you Crimson Wife. As my oldest approaches high school, as a homeschooler, I’m finding it harder to keep up. K-6 was easy to teach, 6-8 less so. He’s doing well with a physical science couse this year, but next year is biology and a lab really is needed. We’re researching public school and private schools for high school. I really don’t want to teach geometry either. 🙁

  5. In my state, families can choose to dual enroll in public school and home school. I had several children in my high school classes that were home schooled for about half the day. I think this can work very well in high school.
    We have thought about doing this for my daughter that is in public school. However, at the elementary level it seems like it would be to disruptive and would be socially awkward. We might try in middle school.

  6. Blended learning = online learning because online learning never ever ever ever meant “JUST” learning online.

    It meant complimenting your learning with online tools.

    So who the !@#! made another stupid buzzword?


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kriley19, NewSchools, Joanne Jacobs, nancyrubin, Matthew Lloyd and others. Matthew Lloyd said: Blended learning: How does it work? — Joanne Jacobs […]

  2. […] Blended learning: How does it work? from Joanne Jacobs […]