Blended Learning - It’s What’s Up For Successful Students
Meeting diverse needs of individual students has always been a challenge for teachers. With only so many minutes in a class or so many hours in a day, teachers have struggled to provide for gifted, average, and struggling students, as well as to honor all learning styles. Adding online learning experiences to face-to-face delivery has been one solution to these struggles, and research seems to point to the success of these hybrids.
Educators have developed 6 models for blended learning, and teachers and/or schools select from among them based upon their unique student populations. The 6 models of Blended Learning are summarized as follows:
- The Face-To-Face Driver Model.
This model works best for diverse classrooms in which students are functioning at various levels of ability and mastery. In general, only some students will participate in online learning components, as follows:
- Students at mastery levels above their grade level may proceed at a more rapid pace. This prevents boredom by providing appropriate challenges for highly capable students.
- Students who are at mastery levels below their grade level are given appropriate skill remediation in an effort to accelerate their learning. And the beauty of online learning for these children is that they are able to get all of the practice they need to master skills and to devise their own techniques that help to improve their memories when content retention is required.
- ESL students can receive remediation as well, so that their English skills may be more rapidly acquired.
- The Rotation Model.
This is really just a variation of the learning stations model that teachers have been using for years. There is a set schedule by which students have face-to-face time with their teachers and then move to online work. This model seems to be most popular in the following environments:
- Elementary classrooms in which teachers have already used and are comfortable with traditional learning stations.
- Elementary classrooms in which students can be divided based upon skill levels in reading and math. Thus, students who are performing well in math but not in reading may have face-to-face time with their teachers for reading before rotating to the online learning stations for math. Teachers are able to give struggling students more individual assistance based upon their needs.
- The Flex Model.
This model relies heavily on online instructional delivery, with teachers acting as facilitators rather than as primary deliverers of instruction. This model appears to be most used and most successful in the following environments:
- Alternative school settings in which the majority of the student population is considered to be at-risk. Traditional classroom settings have traditionally not been successful for these students.
- Alternative school settings in which students are involved in work-study programs, have attendance problems, or have been placed in a part-time schooling program.
- As a rule, the grade level for the Flex Model is secondary.
- Online Lab School Model.
This model involves students traveling to and attending a school with total online educational delivery for entire courses. There are no certified teachers on hand, but, rather, trained paraprofessionals who supervise. This is a good option in the following circumstances:
- Secondary students who need flexibility of scheduling due to other responsibilities (job, child-rearing).
- Secondary students who choose this option in order to progress at a faster rate than they would in a traditional school setting.
- Students who need to move at a slower pace than traditional classrooms provide.
- Schools and districts that face budget constraints and cannot accommodate their total populations in traditional classrooms, either because of facility restraints or the inability to employ enough certified teachers. This model eases classroom size issues.
- Self-Blend Model.
This model allows coursework beyond that offered in a tradition setting in a specific school or district. Students participate in traditional classes but then enroll in courses to supplement their regular programs of study. This model is particularly beneficial in the following circumstances:
- A course that is not offered by the school may be taken by a student who wants additional learning in a specific content field.
- Students who wish advanced placement courses for early college credit can enroll in courses designed and approved for such.
- Students who are highly motivated and fully independent learners.
- The Online Driver Model.
This model is the complete opposite of a traditional face-to-face instructional environment. Students work from remote locations (e.g., their homes) and receive all of their instruction via online platforms. Usually, there are opportunities to “check-in” with a course teacher and to engage in online messaging if an explanation is needed. Schools and districts that offer this model find that the number of students opting for it increases annually. The model works well for the following students:
- Students with chronic illnesses/handicaps who find it difficult to attend school.
- Students whose jobs or other obligations demand flexibility to “be in school” at hours during which traditional schools are not in operation.
- Students who are highly motivated and who want to progress much faster than would be allowed in a traditional school setting.
While many “traditional” teachers may resist blended learning environments, this trend is not going away. Students are digitally-oriented, understand the potential for success that blended learning may offer them, and are excited about the opportunities that blended learning offers them. And as school districts continue to experience financial stress in their attempts to find a desk for every student in a traditional classroom, online learning is an efficient and viable solution.
Which blended learning model have you been using to improve the education of your students? Share your stories with us!