Blended Instruction - Getting Started

We may designate classes as face-to-face or online, but the reality is that most of us now teach in a blended format. Blended learning is a combination of more traditional classroom practice with eLearning practice as facilitated by educational technology. So, for instance, meeting at a physical classroom space while live-streaming with a group of remote learners is a version of blended learning. Meeting in a virtual, live classroom space for learning while providing online supplements is also blended learning. Flipped learning, in which video lectures or other online materials deliver content prior to class and then class time is used for application activities, is also blended learning. The definition of blended learning is ever-evolving.

How might you start blending your learning experience? There may be a model already identified, in practice, or in literature, you can adopt that resonates with your needs. For instance, Blended Learning Universe (n.d.) and itslearning (n.d.) detailed models such as:

Driver Models

When we think “driver,” we imagine being transported to a destination. This helps explain how the bulk of instruction is delivered using the driver model. Driver models might include:
  • Face-to-Face Driver – Instruction is in a traditional classroom with online supplements. Most educators are supplementing face-to-face classes with online content presently.
  • Online Driver – Instruction is online, with required or optional time with an instructor in a traditional classroom or in a live, virtual setting.
  • Online Lab Driver – Instruction is online, though held in a computer lab with guidance provided from an instructor or teaching assistant.

Station Models

When we think “stations,” we envision an elementary class of learners rotating amongst “stations” or “centers” for things like tactile play, quantitative reasoning, prosocial skill development, and so on, while the educator provides guidance and clarification and may have paraprofessional support. Stations might include an instructor-guided learning station, a collaborative learning station, a station for hands-on or tactile “lab” activities, a station for computer- or mobile-device based activities, and so on. The instructor and teaching assistants rotate to ensure students are successfully completing activities and grasping concepts. Station models might include:
  • Station Rotation – Students rotate through fixed stations in a traditional classroom.
  • Lab Rotation – Students rotate through fixed stations in a computer lab.
  • Individual Rotation – Students rotate, but to specific stations on an individualized “playlist."
  • Hybrid Rotation – Students rotate from traditional classroom to online (on-site or remote).

Flipped Models

Many of us have heard of “the flipped classroom.” This is a model that offers direct instruction online, instead of in the physical classroom. Then, the time in the physical classroom is spent on application activities, such as through related projects, collaborative learning, or educator-guided practice. View our flipped learning page for more information.

Flexible (or Flex) Models

Several models describe more flexible arrangements for blended learning, which allow for a high degree of individualization based on needs and interests. However, these models are also more difficult to implement based on related logistics or time needed for pre-planning. Flex models might include:
  • Flex – Instruction is online, with options for group or individual instruction in a traditional classroom or in a live, virtual setting as requested by students.
  • HyFlex/Self-Blend – Students select participation modalities, attending online or in a physical classroom as desired or as needed.

Designing from Scratch

If you don’t see a model that meets your needs above or if you want to engage in a more concrete design process, the Blended Flow Map (Anthoney, Jacobson, & Snare, 2018) and the CDLI Blended Flow Toolkit (n.d.) offer four steps that can be used for planning at either the class or session level, with sample activities. One could assess pros/cons and methods of completing each activity in a traditional classroom, online, or in live virtual domains, determining the best mode of delivery for each to arrive at a customized blended solution:
  1. Set the Stage: Prime the pump for learning through:
    1. Triggering Event - readings, videos, data, etc.
    2. Preparatory Exploration - articles, sites, experiences, interviews, scavenger hunts, etc.
    3. Preliminary Meaning Making - discussions, journals, small group work, etc.
    4. Preliminary Check for Understanding - 1-minute paper, muddiest point, in 3 words, what’s the principle?, quiz, survey, etc.
  2. Explore: Consider the topic by:
    1. Defining the Problem & Identifying Key Questions - brainstorming, small group discussion, polls, think-pair-share, defining features matrix, etc.
    2. Exploring Key Questions - experiment, case study, impact matrix, etc.
  3. Dig Deeper: Study with depth through:
    1. Further Exploration - methodical observation, expert interview, perspective taking, field report, informal survey, question log book, etc.
    2. Meaning Making & Integration - research paper, storyboard, map, schema, observational writing, concept map, timeline, wiki, proposal, etc.
  4. Wrap Up: Provide closure via:
    1. Integration/Application – slide, video or poster presentation, implementation plan, summary of field reports, concept map, infographic, diagram, model, etc.
    2. Resolution & Wrap-up - discussion, reflective paper, journal, etc.

Regardless of how you structure your course, keep these few general points in mind: First, there is not a handbook or protocol for which parts of a course belong online and which parts belong in a face-to-face format, the structure is largely dependent on the objectives of the course. Second, be sure that you as the instructor, have an active presence in both contexts by being involved in both online and face-to-face sessions. Finally, be sure that there is a clear connection between the online context and the face-to-face context and that they do not operate as separate courses.

Resources

References

Anthoney, M., Jacobson, J. & Snare, J. (2018). Innovating with purpose: The blended flow toolkit for designing blended/hybrid courses. EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. Retrieved from https://library.educause.edu/~/media/files/library/2018/1/elib1801.pdf

Blended Learning Institute (n.d.). Blended learning models. Retrieved from https://www.blendedlearning.org/models/

Blended Learning Institute (n.d.). Design guide. Retrieved from https://www.blendedlearning.org/design/


Seattle University (n.d.) CDLI Blended Flow Toolkit. Retrieved from https://seattleu.instructure.com/courses/1569931