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Five Models for Blended Learning

jspohrer's picture

What exactly IS blended learning? The term (along with its analogue "hybrid" learning) is broadly used to describe individual courses or educational programs that combine "traditional" classroom-based teaching and computer-aided learning outside the classroom. This is a very broad umbrella, however, and I get many questions attempting to clarify what counts and doesn't count or what blended learning looks like on the ground in more concrete terms. 

The National Center for Academic Transformation has developed a taxonomy of blended learning models that might provide some clarity to those new to the subject and inspiration for faculty looking for ways to transform a "traditional" course into a blended one.

  • Supplemental Model -- the overall structure and format of the course remains the same, but computer-based learning activities supplement lectures and textbook and may be used to increased active-learning opportunities during class meetings. Most of the courses developed for our study of blended learning at liberal arts colleges would fit this model.
  • Replacement Model -- as above, except the number of in-class meetings are reduced.
  • Emporium Model -- there are no class meetings; students learn concepts and skills at their own pace through interactive software modules, with in-person tutorial support available on demand.
  • Fully Online Model -- computer-based learning activities are used in the ways described above, but online meetings and communication replace face-to-face ones
  • Buffet Model -- students pick and choose from a range of online and face-to-face learning opportunities (i.e., live lectures, live discussions, lecture videos, interactive lesson modules, labs, study groups, individual or group projects) to develop a customized plan for achieving course learning outcomes.
  • The Linked Workshop Model -- for remedial/developmental instruction, in-person and/or interactive workshops are linked to core college courses in order to provide underprepared students with "just-in-time" instruction as needed, instead of requiring them to pass generic remedial courses before attempting college-level work

One caveat: This taxonomy was developed from an analysis of blended courses developed as part of NCAT's Program in Course Redesign studies. The program's goals are improving the quality AND reducing the cost of instruction, and participants have focused largely on large-scale introductory courses where there is considerable room for improvement on both counts. These models are generic enough that they could be apply to smaller or more advanced courses, but the cost-benefit equations would certainly change.