Blended Learning Models

Blending learning models combine the power of teachers with the power of technology to create a new learning dynamic that helps students reach their potential and achieve their academic goals. There is a variety of blended learning models that schools can choose from—or combine—to implement a blended learning program, but how do they determine which model is the best fit?

In our webinar “Blended Learning: A Disruptive Model,” blended learning expert Tasi Young provides some advice on where to start and what questions to ask at the beginning of the change process. Referencing an implementation graphic from the book Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools,1 Mr. Young emphasizes the importance of identifying the problem(s) to solve before choosing the blended learning model or software:

Almost always, when people come and ask me about blended learning, they want to jump right to the software question. They want to say, “hey, tell me what’s the best software out there, what’s the best online course that can really help my students.” That’s really the wrong place to start. The right place to start is … to ask, what are we trying to do? What are the results that we’re looking for? What kind of resources do I have? What can I build?

[Work from the bottom up]

Blended Learning Model

To view this informational webinar, click on the following link:

Blended Learning: A Disruptive Model ›

Once a school has identified the problem(s) it is trying to solve and has considered its goals and resources, it is better equipped to identify the best blended learning model.

In the book Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, authors Horn and Staker found that “most blended courses fit somewhere within the broad parameters of four main models: Rotation, Flex, A La Carte, and Enriched Virtual.”2 Following is a brief overview of each of the models.

Rotation Model

The rotation model is defined as a class, course, or subject in which students rotate from one learning modality to another, at least one of which being online learning. The rotation often consists of students either moving between online learning, smallgroup instruction, and paper-pencil work, or moving between whole-class instruction and online learning. Rotations have been employed in the classroom for many years; however, including an online learning component in the rotation is what makes this a blended learning approach.

Within the rotation model are four specific types of rotation: Station rotation, lab rotation, flipped classroom, and individual rotation.

Following are brief descriptions for each of the four types of Rotation models:

Station Rotation

In station rotation, students rotate within a classroom or set of classrooms. Rotations may include, for example, individual learning using online learning programs, small group direct instruction with a teacher, and independent work at students’ desks.

Lab Rotation

Lab rotation is very similar to station rotation. The key difference is that students move to a computer lab for their online learning portion of instruction. The advantage of using lab rotation rather than station rotation is that using the lab frees up classroom space for other activities within the rotation model. Teachers have used lab rotation for several years, but now with blended learning, teachers incorporate the online learning component into their classroom lessons to create a more streamlined course.

Flipped Classroom

In a flipped classroom, students learn the lesson content online independently so that class time can be used to practice or discuss the concepts learned. For example, students listen to lectures outside of class time, and students do homework during class time with a teacher available to assist with questions and guide student learning. This approach is significant because students are involved in activity-based learning rather than passive learning.

Individual Rotation

In individual rotation, students move to a variety of different learning modalities based on student needs and interests. The students’ course is not prescribed by a teacher or schedule but rather is customized for each student according to individual needs. Teachers are available to expand on the information learned online via face-to-face projects and discussions.

Flex Model

A Flex model refers to courses where online learning is the backbone of students’ learning experience, mostly taking place on a brick-and-mortar campus. Teachers are available to offer tutoring, guidance, and off-line learning activities to enrich students’ online learning experience as needed and on a case-by-case basis. The Flex model is different than the Rotation model in that the Flex model begins with online learning and adds teacher supports as needed, whereas the Rotation model begins with a teacher- fronted approach and adds the online learning component.

A La Carte Model

The A La Carte model refers to a course that a student takes online while attending a brick-and-mortar school. This model is the most common type of blended learning employed at the high school level. Online courses, such as foreign language classes that are not offered at the brick-and-mortar school, are taken by high school students during study hall or after school. Although there is no face-to-face component associated with the online course, this approach is considered a blended learning model because students are engaged in a blend of both online learning and brick-and-mortar schooling.

Enriched Virtual Model

The Enriched Virtual model requires students to have face-to-face instructional sessions, but students are given the flexibility to complete the rest of the classwork online from a location of their choice. This model differs from fully-online schools where students are not required to attend a brick-and-mortar school. This Enriched Virtual model differs from the Flipped Classroom model because students are required to meet face-to-face with teachers on a regularly scheduled basis. The Enriched Virtual model provides needed support for students while allowing the flexibility of self-directed, online instruction.

Every school is different, with its own unique mix of problems, resources, and educational goals. It’s important that you find the right blend for your school. Reading Horizons can help you gain the essential information you need.


1 Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker, Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools (United States: Jossey-Bass, 2014).

2 Ibid.

The image on this page is an adaptation of a graphic originally appearing in the book Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools.