Blended Learning and the Flipped Classroom: What Are They and How Do They Meet Student Needs?

The age of technology has begun to transform how we think about classroom teaching.  Terms like “blended learning” and “flipped classroom” are becoming more familiar, but the similarities and differences between these two systems are not always clear.

The Blended Classroom:

The blended classroom is an integrated instructional approach to teaching and learning. In a blended learning classroom, a student has face-to-face instruction with a teacher. The online component of the learning complements what the instructor is teaching in the classroom.  It can be in the form of instructional exercises, games and/or reading materials, and it must meet the educational needs of each student. In order for the technology-based portion of the instruction to be effective, it is important for students to have some choice and some control over the time, pace, and/or path of the learning.

The Flipped Classroom:

The flipped classroom is a form of blended learning. The student is first exposed to new material outside of class. Teachers may create a short video or link to online content related to their instructional goals. They can post this instruction to a web site, or to a learning management system, for students to view outside the school day. Students often view these videos, online presentations, or other learning resources at home.  Face time with the teacher is used to help students apply what they learn. The reason this is called a “flipped classroom” is that the initial information, traditionally given by teachers, is now recorded for homework, and the practice that was traditionally given for homework is now done in class through discussion and problem solving.

Both the flipped classroom and blended learning are important instructional frameworks.  In both, the teachers and students need to be clear about all instructional goals and procedures.  Teachers need to make student expectations clear and show students exactly how to use the online resources involved, so they can get the most from them.  Teachers also need to review all data generated by the use of online resources to make good instructional decisions.


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