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Rethinking the Classroom for Blended Learning

As you adapt your practice to the blended learning model you will encounter new strategies, practices, and terminology. This resource is part of our Hybrid Learning Series.
Published: March 25, 2021

As you adapt your practice to the blended learning model you will encounter new strategies, practices, and terminology. The purpose of this resource is to provide you with information to help you modify your pedagogical practices for a hybrid learning model.

What is Blended Learning?

Blended Learning is an education program that integrates a virtual and face-to-face learning environment for students. In a blended learning environment:

  • The student has some control over place, path, and pace of learning;
  • Learning usually occurs through an integrated curriculum;
  • The learning cycle flows best when unpacked as pre-learning activities that prepare students to engage in both the virtual and face-to-face learning environment;
  • The next phase of learning is the instructor-led session in which the educator directs student activities to ensure that learning goals are met; and
  • Post-learning activities in which the educator uses evaluative data to provide appropriate assignments that reinforce and expand learning goals.


Accessibility: Equitable access to content to ensure that no student is discriminated against because of their unique needs or abilities.

Cloud storage: An Internet-based computing model that allows you to store, manage, and share files online. Popular cloud storage-based platforms include Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.

Culturally responsive instruction: A pedagogical practice that integrates students’ cultural references into the classroom.

Flipped classroom: A type of blended learning in which direct instruction moves to the asynchronous learning space and the synchronous learning space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive environment.

Learning management system: A platform used to deploy and track online training. Content is uploaded thereby making it accessible for both face to face to and remote learners.

Netiquette: The appropriate online social behavior.

Social emotional learning: The process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Student response tool: A tool that is used to receive real-time or on the spot, formative feedback on student understanding.

Instead of This, Try This

Instead of in-person back to school activities, try:

  • Incorporate virtual activities that create a welcoming climate and build community for students and families.
  • Consider a virtual scavenger hunt, Match the fact, and other virtual activities to provide students an opportunity to engage with and learn about their peers.

Instead of one-size-fits-all, try:

  • Consider the learning modality for the course when scheduling and making assignments.
  • Allow students flexibility in demonstrating their learning.
  • Incorporate Universal Design for Learning strategies and culturally responsive instruction to ensure access and inclusivity.
  • Create a space for students to share their preferred pronouns.

Instead of lecture, try:

  • Flip the classroom or post short recorded lessons for virtual learning.
  • During synchronous learning time, consider what complex components of the lesson to focus on. For students unable to complete offsite aspects of the learning, build in supports for them to complete them in the face-to-face setting.

Instead of worksheets/independent work, try:

  • Design units of learning. Unpack the virtual elements and incorporate strategies of support so that students can be successful without in-person guidance.
  • Incorporate connected learning to improve student engagement and provide social interaction. Include opportunities for Project Based Learning.

Instead of assignment deadlines, try:

  • Allow for flexibility in assignment deadlines.

Instead of textbooks and printed resources, try:

  • Guide students and families through your online course materials or Learning Management System (LMS) to ensure that they know how to access resources, communicate with you, and turn in assignments. Ensure that students without devices or connectivity understand the offline procedures for this.
  • Provide videos and screenshots for students and parents to help navigate the LMS.

Blended Models for Learning

Most blended learning programs resemble one of four models: Rotation, Flipped Classroom, Flex, or Enriched Virtual.

Rotation Model
A course or subject in which students rotate on a fixed schedule or at the teacher’s discretion between learning modalities, at least one of which is online learning. Other modalities might include activities such as small-group or full-class instruction, group projects, individual tutoring, and pencil-and-paper assignments. The students learn mostly on the brick-and-mortar campus. The rotation model includes the following four sub-models:

  • Individual Rotation Students rotate through learning experiences based on an individual schedule set by the teacher. However, students may not rotate through every station as they only complete the assignment/activities that are on their “playlists.”
  • Lab Rotation This model allows for teachers of record to connect the learning environment to other educators within their schools. In this model, learning occurs on a fixed schedule. However, it may occur in a different space such as the computer lab, working with a paraeducator on a virtual session, or in the auditorium with the fine arts department.
  • Station Rotation This model is based on a fixed schedule where students rotate through learning stations—one of which is an online learning station. This is similar to small group rotations or centers that commonly occur in elementary classrooms.

Flipped Classroom
Many educators are familiar with the flipped model. This model switches the traditional in-class work and homework. Students engage with learning outside of the class, in a virtual environment. This may include lectures and online coursework. Then educators use class time to conduct teacher facilitated practice or projects.

This model allows students to move along a learning path on a fluid schedule based on their learning needs. This model provides students a great deal of autonomy over their learning as instruction and support from teachers is flexible and on an as-needed basis.

Enriched Virtual
Students are required to attend face-to-face classes, but most of the learning is outside of the traditional classroom. Unlike the flipped classroom, this model does not usually require daily attendance.

Common Pedagogical Practices for Blended Learning

Many pedagogical practices for hyflex and blended learning are similar; however, there are key differences. Where hyflex depends on live instruction, blended relies on both recorded and live instruction. Unlike the hyflex instructional model which relies more heavily on synchronous learning, the more asynchronous nature of the blended learning model does not lend itself to the use of formative assessments and real-time student response tools with regularity.

Accommodate learning styles: The different ways in which students learn best. Understanding the learning styles of individual learners can help educators accommodate different learning styles and enhance student learning experiences.

Collaborative learning: Provides opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction in the process of co-constructing knowledge.

Differentiated instruction: Can enrich and accelerate learning by meeting each student’s individual needs. This can be accomplished by using a variety of strategies such as flexible grouping or providing options for how students learn and demonstrate knowledge.

Flipped classroom: Provides opportunities to offer synchronous and asynchronous online learning; Asynchronous time can be spent on building background knowledge, while synchronous learning is focused on engagement, collaboration, and assessment.

Peer-to-peer interaction: Allows for flexiblity in grouping and encourages shared responsibility and teamwork.

Project based learning: Accommodates various student learning styles and provides an authentic assessment of student knowledge and understanding, opportunities for asynchronous individual or collaborative group learning, and an extended period of time to respond to an authentic learning inquiry.

Short recorded lessons: An important tool in online learning. The recorded lessons can be accessed by students unable to join synchronous lessons and provide them with an opportunity to review lessons as needed.

Video communication: An important aspect of online learning that provides students with a sense of connectedness and community through video and audio platforms.

NEA provides guidance and resources for returning to classrooms safely, and with an emphasis on racial and social justice.

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Hybrid Learning Series

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about new challenges for educators as learning in many school districts has transitioned from in-person instruction to distance learning models that include combinations of in-person instruction and virtual learning.
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