The Rotation Model

The rotation model is one of the most common models in blended learning. In the book Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, authors Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker describe the rotation model in the following way:

The model that classroom teachers in particular gravitate toward first is the Rotation Model. This category includes any course or subject in which students rotate—either on a fixed schedule or at the teacher’s discretion—among learning modalities, at least one of which is online learning. Often students rotate among online learning, small-group instruction, and pencil-and-paper assignments at their desks. Or they may rotate between online learning and some type of whole-class discussion or project. The key is that the clock or the teacher announces that the time has arrived to rotate, and everyone shifts to their next assigned activity in the course.

The idea of rotating among stations is certainly not new to education. In fact, teachers have rotated groups of students among centers for decades, predominantly at the elementary school level. The new element is that online learning is now part of the cycle.1

There are four different varieties of the rotation model: Station rotation, lab rotation, flipped classroom, and individual rotation. How do they compare?

Station Rotation

In station rotation, students rotate through modalities within a classroom or a set of classrooms.

In part, students learn using software or other online-based coursework on classroom computers. Students can do a variety of activities, including but not limited to previewing, completing, or reviewing skill lessons, reading stories, or taking computer-administered assessments. Through these kinds of tech-based activities, students have opportunities to work independently and privately, free from concerns about how they will perform in front of their peers.

For the offline part of their learning, students receive direct instruction from a teacher, followed up by a variety of activities, which could include modeled and independent reading, workbook pages or other pencil-and-paper tasks, one-on-one tutoring, small-group work, projects, games, flash cards—the list of possibilities is nearly endless.

Lab Rotation

Lab rotation is very similar to station rotation, except that with lab rotation, students fulfill the online learning part of instruction in a computer lab rather than in the classroom. One benefit of this model is that using the lab frees up classroom space for other activities within the rotation model.

Adequate access to a computer lab is an important consideration for this model. In some schools, lab time can be restricted to certain days or time frames. Mainstream K–3 classes often have to compete with other grade levels and classes for lab time. In intervention settings, students typically have additional access to the computer lab; however, these students usually need more supervision than mainstream students, so careful planning and teacher guidance in the computer lab during online learning should factor into decision-making.

Flipped Classroom ›

In a flipped classroom, students learn the lesson content offsite via the computer and use class time for activity-based learning rather than passive learning. For example, students can complete software lessons outside of class time and then do homework during class time, when a teacher is available for assistance. This model helps ensure that students are actively engaged in learning while in the classroom, which is one reason why it is a favorite of secondary schools.

Individual Rotation

In individual rotation, students move through a variety of different learning modalities, but rather than the rotation being prescribed by a teacher or schedule, it is customized for each student according to individual needs.

This model is adjustable, which frees students from having to move through every modality at every stage in their coursework and instead lets them work in modalities that better meet their needs at any given point. Teachers are available to clarify or expand on the information learned online and provide support.

To learn more about the various blended learning models, we encourage you to visit the Blended Learning Universe via the following link:


1 Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker, Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools (United States: Jossey-Bass, 2014), 38.

The images on this page are adaptations of graphics originally appearing in the book Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools.