Blended Teaching

Blended LearningOnline LearningOnlineOnline TeachingBlended Teaching
Blended teaching is the strategic combination of instruction in two different modalities: online and in-person (Graham, 2021). This article addresses the question of why instructors choose to teach in a blended modality. It also addresses seven common challenges to student engagement that intentional blended strategies can help to overcome. A few practical examples of strategic blends are provided. Finally, two research-based competency frameworks are shared to help blended instructors increase their awareness and self-evaluation of core pedagogical skills for effective blended teaching.

Effective blended teaching is almost always intentional and strategic. There are a wide variety of models and teaching strategies that can be designed into a blend. Figure 1 depicts a spectrum of possibilities from the modality perspective.

Figure 1

Spectrum of blended possibilities based on combining in-person and online modality

There are a number of blended models that fit within the spectrum described in Figure 1. Some of these models include rotation, flex, and flipped (Staker & Horn, 2012); hyflex (Beatty, 2019); inside out and outside in (Kohls et al., 2018); supplemental, emporium, replacement, and buffet (Twigg, 2003); and time-based blends (Norberg et al., 2011). Incorporating these models in traditional schools and universities demands new forms of school leadership (Scheninger, 2019) and a critical examination of strategic innovation, school structure, and cross-institutional partnerships (Thompson et al., 2019).

Why Blend?

There are many reasons why teachers and institutions choose blended approaches. The three most common reasons are shown in Table 1. It is important to note that teachers often work to achieve multiple purposes with a blend even though one purpose may have priority over the others. Furthermore, reasons for blending can have a strong influence on the blended approach that is chosen. 

Table 1

Common reasons to adopt blended teaching and learning

ReasonBrief Explanation
Improved Student LearningWhereas different learners maintain personal preferences for how they prefer to receive information (Pashler et al., 2008) and for how they actually learn (Willingham et al., 2015), teaching through multiple modalities can lead to improved student learning.
Increased Access and FlexibilityTrue blended approaches can facilitate purposeful anytime/anywhere learning experiences for students and anytime/anywhere teaching circumstances for instructors, removing the fixed limitations of time and place for education to occur (Joosten et al., 2021).
Increased EfficiencySome curricula are more quickly and more easily taught when digital tools are used to enhance teaching and learning. Similarly, other concepts and contents benefit most from face to face instructional interaction. Blending can improve efficiency when teachers and students have access to both online and in-person options (Chigeza & Halbert, 2014).

Strategic Blending

Having a clear purpose for blending can help make blended course or lesson design more intentional and strategic. Blending with purpose allows teachers to align pedagogical objectives and activities with appropriate approaches and technologies, thus keeping improved student learning at the forefront (Picciano, 2009). In addition, teachers may adopt blended approaches to increase opportunities for social emotional learning and deep learning as described by the 6C’s: character, citizenship, collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking (Fullan et al., 2018). Table 2 outlines seven common pedagogical challenges to student engagement (7P’s) that blended teaching strategies can help educators to overcome. Additionally, frameworks such as PICRAT or 4E’s (enable, engage, elevate, extend) can help teachers to strategically reflect on the relationship between their pedagogical purposes and the technologies used to support those purposes (Kimmons et al., 2022; Kolb, 2017; Borup et al., 2022).

Table 2

Seven pedagogical challenges to student engagement that blended approaches can help with (Stein & Graham, 2020; Graham et al., 2019)

ChallengeBlended Approaches Can Address Challenge
ParticipationIntentionally combining in-person and online interactions can ensure that all students participate.
PacingWhile in-person instruction often revolves around synchronous whole class activities, online instruction can be individualized to meet unique pacing needs.
PersonalizationThis occurs when the learner is an active participant in making choices around the goals, time, place, pace, or path of learning experiences, (Graham et al., 2019; Bray & McClaskey, 2015). While personalization is possible in an entirely in-person learning environment, the flexibility and digital tools (like adaptive software) available online, can make it a more practical option for teachers in a blended teaching context.
PlaceWhereas in-person instruction requires that all learners be physically present in the same location, online portions need not be limited to the same space. Furthermore, students can virtually visit authentic locations for learning that are outside the classroom.
Personal InteractionInstead of the one-to-many model of interaction inherent to in-person teaching, online learning can facilitate flexible and meaningful one-to-one interactions between teachers and students, especially when instruction is asynchronous and intentionally planned.
PreparationBlending allows students to look ahead at the curriculum, making deeper and more meaningful preparations for in-person learning experiences. It can also help teachers to know students’ level of preparation before class time.
Practice with FeedbackThrough algorithmic and pre-programmed elements, online practice activities can facilitate a faster and more robust feedback experience than is otherwise available for analog, in-person learning.

Practical Examples

Consider how the following real-world examples of blended teaching and learning align with the common reasons for blending listed above, along with how they might help to overcome pedagogical challenges.

Blended Teaching Competencies

Several key issues are faced when designing blended environments: incorporating flexibility, stimulating interaction, facilitating student learning processes, and fostering an affective learning climate (Boelens et al., 2017). Important blended and online teaching competencies have been identified that can help address these and other significant issues (Pulham & Graham, 2018). Table 3 outlines two competency frameworks relevant to blended teaching that are grounded in research and focus primarily on pedagogical skills. The Blended Teaching Readiness Survey ( based on the BT Readiness Framework serves as a helpful tool for teachers to self-assess their understanding and skills for blended teaching.

Table 3

Competency frameworks relevant for blended and online teaching

Blended Teaching Readiness Framework
(Graham et al., 2019; Pulham & Graham, 2018)
Pillars of Online Pedagogy
(Archambault et al., 2022)
  • Integrate Online and In-Person Instruction
  • Use Digital Data to Inform Teaching Practices
  • Enable Personalized Learning Experiences
  • Facilitate Online Interaction with Instructors, Students, and Content
  • Build Relationships and Community
  • Incorporate Active Learning
  • Leverage Learner Agency
  • Embrace Mastery Learning
  • Personalize the Learning Process

The ability to teach in a blended modality is becoming increasingly important for instructors in K-12, higher education, and corporate training contexts. Instructors can strategically identify blended approaches and models that can benefit students in their unique contexts. Blended teaching competencies can be learned, measured, and improved upon.


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Charles R. Graham

Brigham Young University

Charles R. Graham is a Professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. He studies the design and evaluation of online and blended learning environments as well as the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning. In 2015 Charles became a Fellow of the Online Learning Consortium "For outstanding achievement in advancing theory, research and effective practice in online and blended learning." He is also a Fellow with the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute for his work to develop a K-12 Blended Teaching Readiness instrument for preservice and inservice teachers. Details regarding other books and articles authored by Charles can be found online at 

Darren Edgar Draper

Alpine School District

A fierce and faithful proponent of the effective use of technology in schools, Dr. Darren E. Draper is a CoSN Certified Education Technology Leader who currently serves as the Director of Innovative Learning in the Alpine School District. As the largest school district in the state of Utah, Alpine District educates over 80,000 students.

Darren is a regular presenter at ed-tech and academic conferences nationwide, and has over twenty five years of experience in the field. Most recently, his professional interests include academic coaching, personalized and competency-based education, technology-enabled professional learning in its many forms, and the academic application of social networking. He's been blogging at and chatting on Twitter for over a decade (@ddraper), and would love to connect to learn more with you!

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