For years now, the term “blended learning” has been used to describe a sort of middle ground between face-to-face and fully online education. As more and more schools use this model—blended schools are operating in at least 24 states and Washington, D.C., according to Evergreen Education— many different meanings have evolved. For a clearer and deeper understanding of this approach to teaching and learning, I wanted to explore several of these evolving definitions. Here are a few that stand out to me:

The Clayton Christensen Institute created one of the most commonly accepted definitions: “A formal education program in which a student learns:

  • At part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace;
  • At least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home;
  • And the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.”

iNACOL, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, recently defined blended learning as “a combination of face-to-face learning experiences and online learning platforms, content, and tools for personalizing instruction,” going on to say that “true blended learning is a modality to realize a fundamental shift in the instructional model toward personalized learning.”

The Sloan Consortium has for years, including in its most recent survey report, Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States, used a more cut-and-dry approach. They define blended learning as “instruction that has between 30 and 80 percent of the course content delivered online,” as contrasted with online courses, in which 80 percent is delivered online, and face-to-face instruction, in which zero to 29 percent of the content is delivered online.

From what I’ve witnessed at our customer schools and districts that take a blended approach, I think all three of these definitions ring true in different ways. So, I thought I’d try my hand at definition-writing and come up with a fourth:

“Blended learning combines face-to-face interaction with a teacher in a brick-and-mortar school location, with additional instruction— whether live and or recorded– conducted in an online learning environment that allows for digital content, personalized learning, and collaboration with fellow students.”

What do you think? If your school has implemented a blended learning approach, which of these definitions best captures what you are doing? If you are thinking about implementing a blended learning model in your classroom, we can help. Reach out to me directly or get in touch here.

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