Blended Learning: Common Definition?

I was sitting at the CUE Conference in Palm Springs in March 2010 and Michael Horn was talking about the latest report from the Innosight Institute entitled, “The Rise of Blended Learning “.  He stated the definition of blended learning is as follows:

Blended learning is any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick and mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace. (Horn & Staker, 2010; Staker, 2011. http://www.innosightinstitute.org/media-room/publications/education-publications/).

I was following Twitter at the time, and someone tweeted this, “Teachers at my school put their lessons online last week, so we are doing blended learning.” This is not a good example of what is intended by “blended learning.”

tweeted at the time that I thought this definition was too broad.  And then I realized that “we” have not all agreed on a definition of “blended learning” and how important that is to further the research in this area.

The current Innosight Report about Blended Learning does a good job of defining different types of blended learning models.  In particular, this diagram helps to identify what blended learning is.

The accompanying case studies and their placement on this blended learning continuum are helpful.

However, if a person only reads the above definition of blended learning, then most anyone putting anything online could be considered blended learning.

I prefer the definition developed by Allen & Seamans from the Sloan Consortium:

Blended/hybrid course: courses that blend online and face-to-face delivery where a substantial proportion (30% to 79%) of the content is delivered online. (Allen & Seaman, 2007. http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/index.asp) .

In addition, Tom Vander Ark, in this blog post began to help define what is and is NOT blended learning.

I have created the Blended Learning Wiki in an effort to help everyone better define what the collective “we” means when we say “blended” learning.  Please add in your thoughts and links.

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10 Responses to “Blended Learning: Common Definition?”


  1. 1 Michael B. Horn May 20, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Glad you note that under our definition, the teacher at the conference likely incorrectly identified what they are doing as being blended learning. I suspect under the Sloan definition it might have qualified, correct?

    One other question for you. Would you consider the VOISE Academy to be blended learning?

    • 2 Rob Darrow, Ed.D. May 20, 2011 at 10:16 am

      Hi Michael – So, the challenge is the definition. And I think where you are going with the VOISE Academy is that under the “Innosight” definition, the VOISE Academy would be blended learning, but under the Sloan definition it would not. And of the 40 school case studies in the report, all fit the Innosight definition, but would not fit the Sloan definition. Personally, from what I read, I don’t think the VOISE Academy is blended learning because most of the curriculum is delivered by face to face teachers in classrooms. Students may take a few courses online, but not delivered by the teachers at their school. So, getting back to the lady at the conference who thought that blended learning was teachers putting their lesson plans online, we know that does not fit the blended learning I think we are all talking about. I just get concerned when people say, “Oh, we have always done blended learning” when I know they could not have always done the blended learning I think we are discussing because the online options have only been around for a short time and know it involves teachers, curriculum and pedagogy. I appreciate the ongoing academic conversation which will lead to the “right” definition. No doubt, the blended learning we are discussing is one of those things that we know it when we see it.

  2. 4 Tom Vander Ark May 20, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Thanks Rob.
    Blended is certainly multi-modal, but what really differentiates it from tech-rich classrooms (of the last 15 years) is an intentional effort to boost productivity–learning and operating. In this ‘new normal’ period, online/digital learning offers schools the opportunity to rethink staffing patterns with learning professionals of different levels and in different locations.

  3. 5 karen May 20, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Interesting post. I’ve been involved in a project and have been trying to expand teachers’ understanding of “blended” to go beyond just online tech integration. Here’s a graphic I put together to stretch everyone’s thinking: http://www.k12handhelds.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/WhatIsBlendedLearning.jpg

    I think that learner control over their learning and some replacement of seat time are important elements.

  4. 7 Omozuawo, Sophie Emike October 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Thanks. The definition on blended-learning that says, the student has a control over time is a welcome development. it should be encouraged as most students may want to meet up with online lectures that were missed at the next opportune time.

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  1. 1 Blended learning or not? « California Dreamin' by Rob Darrow Trackback on May 23, 2011 at 6:22 am
  2. 2 The components of blended learning « California Dreamin' by Rob Darrow Trackback on June 1, 2011 at 5:56 am

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