Blended Learning

What Is Blended Learning?

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blended-learning1Heather Staker of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation defines blended learning as “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” (2011). According to Jen Jonson, blended learning is often confused with technology integration. She states that while the line between the two can be indistinct, blended learning takes the use of technology in the classroom to a whole new level. Blended learning is usually implemented through some type of learning management system (LMS) such as Schoology, Moodle or Google Classroom. These systems allow teachers to post assignments, facilitate discussions and incorporate multimedia online, giving students control over their learning by letting them set their own pace and allowing them to change when and where they learn. Teachers become facilitators, using class time to focus on group work, collaboration and activities such as project-based learning. The Clayton Christensen Institute predicts that “by 2019, 50% of all high school courses will be online in some form or fashion, with the vast majority of these using blended learning instructional models” (as cited in The Hechinger Report, 2016).


My interest in blended learning lies in the in flipped model of instruction. The Flipped Learning Network created the definition on the right to better explain what flipped learning really means. They also differentiate between flipped learning and flipped classrooms, stating that while many teachers are flipping their classrooms by providing lecture materials in the form of videos and other multimedia for students to watch outside of school hours, this does not necessarily lead to flipped learning. It is not enough to ask students to watch a video for homework and then spend the next day practicing problems in class. The Network argues that truly flipped learning must include a flexible environment that is designed to encourage collaboration and interaction, a learning culture that is student-centered and allows for rich learning opportunities, intentional content created through thoughtful instructional design and a professional educator who facilitates learning, collaborates with peers and reflects on classroom practices (2014).

Tammy Casey and Robyn Poulsen are high school math teachers in Lake Placid, New York. I met them three years ago when they presented at our annual regional math conference. Concerned about the disengagement of their students, they decided to flip their classrooms in 2012.

They will be the first to tell you it has been a lot of work, but they also talk about the success they are seeing. Typically they have their students watch a short (3-8 minute) video and then answer up to five related problems in Math XL. One challenge they overcame was ensuring that students actually watched the video. They found that by using Math XL, they could “lock” the questions until after the video had been watched. They also started grading the Math XL problems. Here is an example of a homework video created by Robyn. Tammy and Robyn do not use textbooks. They each have a class set of TI-Inspire calculators with the Navigator system that students use for notes, warm-ups, quizzes, etc. Class time is spent on project-based learning, activities or simply practicing problems. As a result of flipping their classrooms, they have found that they know their students better since they are no longer lecturing. Engagement has increased, students are learning responsibility and absences are no longer an issue since everything is posted online. Many of us in the session asked about students who are not connected or are special education students. Both teachers said that connectivity has not been an issue. Students can access the short videos during lunch or study hall, or they can take them home on a flash drive or cd. Special education students are thriving in their classes because the flipped method of teaching allows for easy differentiation. Struggling students can rewatch the videos, pausing and rewinding as needed to increase their understanding. Practicing the problems during class gives them time with the teacher if they are having difficulties.



Definition of Flipped Learning – Flipped Learning Network Hub. (2014). Retrieved from

Freeland Fisher, J. (2016). Taking the correct temperature of blended learning. Retrieved from

Staker, H. (2011). The rise of K-12 blended learning: Profiles of emerging models. Innosight Institute. Retrieved from