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Blended Learning: Top Benefits in 2021 and Beyond

Blended learning is an emerging trend in education that has transformative potential. It produces stronger student learning outcomes than purely online or face-to-face courses.

While many schools are now using blended learning models out of sheer necessity, others have long championed a blended approach. As technology and the needs of our society continue to change, the case for blended learning grows stronger.

In this article, we'll review what blended learning means today, the top benefits for students, and the evidence that supports a shift towards blended learning models.

What is blended learning?

Blended learning combines face-to-face classroom teaching with web-based, online approaches. It enables deep and meaningful learning in today’s increasingly digital world.

The purpose of this approach is to integrate the most valuable characteristics of face-to-face learning with the benefits of technology. The goal is not to replace the traditional values of education, but rather to enhance them.

Blended learning models are highly context-dependent. Meaning, whether classes take place in-person or online is based on the subject matter, learning styles, and desired outcomes. As such, teachers become learning environment designers, ensuring the mode of delivery best supports intellectual growth.

What are the benefits of blended learning?

From future readiness to personalization and engagement, the benefits of blended learning are immense.

Blended learning is more engaging

When information is presented to students in a variety of ways, a greater number of individual learning styles can be covered. Taking the learning preferences of students into account improves their engagement with the course subject.

While methodology varies from classroom to classroom, blended learning increases engagement by encouraging collaborative work and integrating interactive elements. Videos, real-world case studies, and other interactive tools promote active participation.

In addition, engagement increases when projects and instruction are individualized for students, which can be facilitated through educational technology.

Supporting evidence

An analysis of 25 peer-reviewed studies published between 2008 and 2016 found that researcher observations of student behavior overwhelmingly support the idea that engagement is increased through blended learning.

Source: The effects of blended learning on K-12th grade students, Laura Hesse

Blended learning creates more opportunities for personalization

Student-centric, blended learning makes it easier to individualize learning modules based on progress, as well as the learning needs of an individual student. Students within one classroom can move at different paces, and teachers can disseminate and adapt content as needed.

This also enables teachers to do more with their time in the classroom. When they leverage technology to get more value from face-to-face interactions, learning outcomes increase greatly.

Supporting evidence

In a RAND Corporation study, 32 “personalized learning schools” (which were part of the Next Generation Learning Challenges initiative) produced positive effects—about 3 percentile points—on students’ math and reading scores.

Source: Informing Progress: Insights on Personalized Learning Implementation and Effects (2017), RAND Corporation

Blended learning builds university readiness and employability

Blended learning helps make sure all students are ready for post-secondary and careers. Students learn how to use technology, and they also learn important soft skills that are foundational to success in the workforce.

In a blended environment, students communicate with staff and peers through discussion forums, email, and video conferences, chat platforms, and other tools. Uploading documents, navigating websites, and other digital tasks are also necessary.

Soft skills are also naturally fostered in a blended learning model. These skills include time management, critical thinking, team cooperation, active learning, and other important attributes.

Supporting evidence

A study published by Elsevier tested a group of calculus students to see how a blended learning model impacted soft skills. The study found that the ability to communicate via email or online improved participation.

Because students were actively discussing and vocalizing their understanding of concepts, blended learning helped build confidence and success. It was concluded that communication skills changed favorably with a blended learning course.

Source: The Impact of Blended Learning on Communication Skills and Teamwork of Engineering Students in Multivariable Calculus, Elsevier

Blended learning allows for ongoing assessments that improve achievement

Incorporating the right type of assessments can actually help students learn better. Online assessments can be especially helpful to students who don’t respond well to the pressure of high-stakes tests.

In a blended learning environment, there is a continuous feedback loop between teachers and students. It is clear what is known and what areas need improvement.

Supporting evidence

Some online assessments may afford students the benefits of being able to take the assessment at flexible times, being able to take it multiple times, and receiving instant feedback. Studies have also found a reduction in anxiety when students take formative assessments before the summative assessment.

Source: Research Report: Odessyware Instructional Design & Strategies

Types of blended learning models

Most blended courses in schools today can be described as one of four models: rotation, flex, a la carte, and enriched virtual. The most widely accepted definitions come from the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a think-tank focused on education and health care.

Blended learning model 1: Rotation

In a rotation model, students rotate—either on a fixed schedule or at the teacher’s direction—among learning modalities. At least one of these stations is online learning. In this model, teachers can easily differentiate instruction for groups of students based on their respective needs.

Blended learning model 2: Flex

Students move on fluid schedules among learning activities according to their needs. Online learning is a core element of the Flex model. Teachers provide support and instruction on a flexible, as-needed basis while students work through course curriculum and content. This model can give students a high degree of control over their learning.

Blended learning model 3: A la carte

Students take an online course with an online teacher of record, in addition to other face-to-face courses, which often provides students with more flexibility over their schedules. This is different from full-time online learning because students are still enrolled in traditional teacher-led classes as well.

Blended learning model 4: Enriched virtual

Students complete the majority of coursework online at home or outside of school but attend school for required face-to-face learning sessions with a teacher. Enriched Virtual programs usually don’t require daily school attendance. For example, some programs may only require twice-weekly attendance.

Schools that use a blended learning approach in Toronto

CaST School

CaST School, accredited by the Ontario Ministry of Education, is a high school that offers both online and experiential, place-based classes. The school follows a blended learning model in that it consists of online mornings and afternoon outings in Toronto.

For the place-based component, CaST School uses Toronto's many spaces as its classroom, learning experientially from the cultural, government, and private institutions that make the city so dynamic. Lessons take place at art museums, university lecture halls and libraries, community centers, and parks.

The online component begins at 10:00 AM, a late start that teenaged students find particularly attractive. CaST believes in an evidence-based approach to education, and a growing number of studies point to the benefits of a late-start daily schedule for teenage students.

The average classroom size is between 5 and 8 students, in which teachers are able to challenge and engage students. The communication among teachers, students, parents, and administrators is seamless, which is especially important given the ongoing pandemic.

Learn More:

CaST School 720 Bathurst St,

Toronto, ON M5S 2R4,

Canada +1 647-205-7656 Admission Information


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