Fundamentals of Blended Learning

Since online learning is becoming a rapidly growing form of education, many of the traditional institutions and teachers utilize it in their classrooms. At the same time, the instructors do not reject the traditional, so called Brick and Mortar Education model, as it also provides students with important skills. Therefore, blended learning is becoming a new instructional design approach that institutions use to improve organizational efficiency and student achievement.

‘Blended Learning is the organic integration of thoughtfully selected and complementary face-to-face and online approaches and techniques’ (Garisson and Vaughan, 2008). That is blended learning is associated with convergence of the traditional face-to-face learning with distributed learning ideas and new technologies. ‘This type of learning is no more about reshaping and enhancing the traditional classroom that it is about making e-learning more acceptable’ (Garisson and Vaughan 2008). In regards to empowerment, technology can have the power to communicate with others, assess large amounts of information, review multiple viewpoints, and manipulate tools to help them be more productive. In education context it means an engaging and motivating atmosphere where learning is self-driven fostering both creativity and analytical thinking and preparing students with 21st century skills, that will prepare them for higher education and global workforce. In order to better understand a transitioning process of comprehensive, traditionally structured schools to a blended program, in this post, I will take a look at major indicators of blending learning and the general classification of blended learning models.


Major indicators of Blended Learning

A Strong connection between online and offline work. The works students complete online need to have a direct obvious connection to the work completed face-to face which could simply be supplemental or enrichment type of activity (Garisson and Kanuka 2004). What the student is doing in the online environment needs to inform what is happening in the classroom. For examples, online games can be a nice addition to the blended classroom if those activities are integrally connected to face-to-face classroom.

Increased student-student and student-teacher collaboration and increased student control over time, pace, place and path of learning. Delivering content and activities online typically gives students more control over their learning (Singh 2003). When information is online, students can access the content from home for review, or students viewing contents in class can revisit and replay that information. Students who need more time to process can take that time to really reflect before sharing their ideas in an online discussion. Teachers can post a variety of instructional materials and add multimedia and hence give students a choice as to the path they take to master a topic. Online classrooms provide students with more opportunities to share their thinking and appreciate the thoughts of their peers. In these environments, students increasingly look to one another for feedback as opposed to simply the teacher.


Blended Learning Models

The blended learning implementation goes through 4 phases including planning. During this phase, school leaders set goals and select or develop a school model. After planning decisions have been made, school communities can then implement and improve on their blended learning models. A recent study by Innosight (Stalker and Horn 2012) identifies 4 general categorizations of blended learning models: Rotation Model, Flex Model, Self-Blend Model, and Enriched Virtual Model

The Rotation Model engages “a program in which a given course or subject, students rotate on fixed schedules or at the teacher’s discretion between learning modalities, at least one of which is online learning” (Stalker and Horn 2012). For instance, in a class rotation model, students are divided into smaller groups and every 20 minutes the group may rotate between stations: one station is with the teacher, two stations are with the computer and fourth station may be guided practice. In this pedagogical setting, the instructor has the ability to monitor the whole class, manage behavior and maintain the class culture.

The Flex Model involves the “content and instruction [being] delivered primarily through the Internet, students move on an individually customized, fluid schedule among learning modalities, and the teacher of record is on site.” (Stalker and Horn 2012). In this model, the students work mostly on the computers and a teacher of record might pull out a group of students for seminar, intervention or direct instruction.  Students in flex schools move at their own pace through an online curriculum and benefit from on-site support and application. The roles of teachers have been redefined to be coaches for students to help pull them out into different experiences whether it is group projects, or small group instruction.

In Self –Blend model, students take advantage of opportunities to take additional online courses to supplement their traditional face-to-face course. Self-Blending is often used by schools to develop learning, broaden course choices, provide Advanced Placement offerings or giving individual support to struggling students.

The Enhanced Virtual Model provides a “whole-school experience in which within each course students divide their time between attending a brick and mortar school and learning remotely using online delivery of content and instruction” (Stalker and Horn 2012). This type of approach is very attractive to the school instructors, since it provides a significant level of accountability and supervision which is difficult to achieve in a traditional online learning model. With the help of technology, a teacher of record can manage and create a favorable learning experience for students.

All these models are rethinking the traditional school, providing students with more control over their learning and giving students more targeted instruction.



Garrison, D. R., and Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 7, 95–105

Garisson, D. R. and N. D. Vaughan (2008) Blended learning in higher education. Framework, principles and guidelines. SanFrancisco, Jossey-Bass.

Singh, H (2003)  Building Effective Blended Learning Programs, Educational Technology, Vol.43, No.6, pp.51-54.

Stalker, H., & Horn, M. B. (2012). Classifying K–12 blended learning. Mountain View, CA: Innosight Institute, Inc.






One thought on “Fundamentals of Blended Learning

  1. I found your article interesting and it prompted me to evaluate blended learning in nurse education. Educators have always been encouraged to adopt a blended approach when teaching students. By blended, I mean facilitating learning opportunities utilising diverse methods and encouraging student’s autonomy whilst also supporting their learning needs. Mixing it up to enhance motivation and enjoyment for all involved has always been desirable. The recent changes in blended learning approaches have introduced a new exciting tool to incorporate in educational models, namely technology. So what has changed is not the focus but the means by which students learn.

    Technology enhanced education has undeniable advantages, as recognised in your article and the literature (Haigh, 2004; Segal et al., 2013). Disadvantages are also reported (Glogowska, Young, Lockyer, & Moule, 2011; Smyth, Houghton, Cooney, & Casey, 2012). So is blended learning utilising technology just a current trend, or will technologically enhanced education dominate in the future ?

    Today I watched my students in class performing a variety of clinical skills which I facilitated utilising a problem solving and peer directed approach. I watched them communicate and interact. I watched them support each other and laugh together. Can technology really provide these opportunities, or are we kidding ourselves ?

    The blended learning models you described were interesting and could be adapted for nurse education. Blended learning nurse education models are already reported as a successful means of educating nurses (Hoffman et al., 2011; Rigby et al., 2012). I consider it crucial to identify and promote models which incorporate blends of education that build on past experiences whist incorporating modern advances.

    Thankyou for your article. I found it thought provoking.


    Glogowska, M., Young, P., Lockyer, L., & Moule, P. (2011). How ‘blended’ is blended learning?: Students’ perceptions of issues around the integration of online and face-to-face learning in a continuing professional development (CPD) health care context. Nurse Education Today, 31(8), 887-891.

    Haigh, J. (2004). Information technology in health professional education: why IT matters. Nurse Education Today, 24(7), 547-552.

    Hoffman, K., Dempsey, J., Levett-Jones, T., Noble, D., Hickey, N., Jeong, S., . . . Norton, C. (2011). The design and implementation of an Interactive Computerised Decision Support Framework (ICDSF) as a strategy to improve nursing students’ clinical reasoning skills. Nurse Education Today, 31(6), 587-594.

    Rigby, L., Wilson, I., Baker, J., Walton, T., Price, O., Dunne, K., & Keeley, P. (2012). The development and evaluation of a ‘blended’ enquiry based learning model for mental health nursing students: “making your experience count”. Nurse Education Today, 32(3), 303-308.

    Segal, G., Balik, C., Hovav, B., Mayer, A., Rozani, V., Damary, I., . . . Khaikin, R. (2013). Online nephrology course replacing a face to face course in nursing schools’ bachelor’s program: A prospective, controlled trial, in four Israeli nursing schools. Nurse Education Today, 33(12), 1587-1591.

    Smyth, S., Houghton, C., Cooney, A., & Casey, D. (2012). Students’ experiences of blended learning across a range of postgraduate programmes. Nurse Education Today, 32(4), 464-468.

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