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What is Blended Teaching?

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For our purposes, blended teaching describes in-person, classroom-based, synchronous instruction that incorporates elements of online learning, technology-enhanced pedagogies, and asynchronous and remote learning. It is likely the most common and varied style of instruction.

Blended teaching can take many forms

The “blend” of blended teaching often includes different technology tools, pedagogic strategies, and learning experiences.

Some examples of blended courses include:

  • A large lecture course where the lecture is recorded for students to rewatch later.
  • A “flipped classroom" course where students watch pre-recorded lecture videos as homework before in-person class sessions where they work together on group activities.
  • A small seminar course where guest lecturers use Zoom to join the class.
  • A course with an active Canvas course site where students post questions and share ideas in online discussion forums.

Blended teaching is distinct from hybrid instruction

A blended course is distinct from a hybrid course. At Stanford, hybrid specifically describes a course that meets partially in-person and partially fully online. The in-person meetings may often include blended teaching elements.

For example, a hybrid course might meet in person twice a week on Mondays and Fridays, and meet online on Zoom on Wednesdays. Another example is a course that meets regularly in person but has a significant number of hours where the students don’t meet at all but work asynchronously on independent projects.

Hybrid courses at Stanford have different requirements and policies associated with them, compared to blended teaching. If you are considering teaching a hybrid course, see What is a Hybrid Course? for more information.

A course where some students attend in person on campus and other students attend those same sessions remotely on Zoom is considered a hybrid course.

Stay centered on the learning experience

Because blended teaching covers such a wide range of activities, instructors using this framework can benefit from taking a broad view of their course and first considering the central questions of teaching and learning: 

  • What are the most important things students should learn to do? 
  • How will students demonstrate what they've learned?
  • Which activities will help them master and demonstrate what they've learned? 
  • Which of these activities will work best in-person and which will work best online? 
  • What will be the best use of classroom time? 
  • What will be the best use of students’ focus time for homework? 

Benefits of blended teaching

A key benefit of blended teaching is that it foregrounds these pedagogic questions and provides a wide array of solutions. Everything from a Canvas course site to pre-recorded lectures to digital polling is a form of blended instruction. Indeed, we might think of these options as simply "technology-enhanced" versions of our own teaching.

A few specific benefits of such teaching are:

  • Better access for all students (e.g., students can potentially access online materials at any time and from any place)
  • More engaging learning (e.g., students can use class time for group activities or to ask questions)
  • Saving time as an instructor (e.g., avoiding photocopying, using online grading options)

Finding the best blend for your course

Blended teaching is a combination of techniques and formats for different situations. The central question of blended teaching is: “What is the best strategy for your unique teaching situation?”

The answers depend on your preferred approach to teaching, your students, and the particular skills and subject matter that you teach. 

For example, learning activities that demand individual focus (e.g., listening to lectures) are generally good fits for online course environments. Activities that thrive on personal interaction (e.g., group work, Q&A, community building) are often most effective in face-to-face interactions. Courses with large numbers of students often benefit from technologies that increase access for students or streamline course management tasks. 

For this reason, blended teaching requires experimentation and adaptation. As you get started with blended teaching, and as you describe your teaching process to your students, it will be helpful to have a mindset of trying things and adjusting to what works best.