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Flipping vs. Blending – What’s the Difference?

Posted by: Date: August 25, 2015 In: ,
by Dana Bodewes, Instructional Designer 

flipping vs blendingLike it or not, technology is influencing the process of teaching and learning in new and evolving ways. Two key trends that draw upon innovations in technology and pedagogy are the flipped learning format and the blended learning format. As these terms are used more often and in varying ways, the difference between the two formats can become confused. I will highlight some of the key differences between flipped and blended learning and why you might want to choose either one.

The term flipped learning comes from the idea that instructors are flipping or reversing the activities traditionally completed in-class and out-of-class. The term blended learning reflects the decision to blend or use both online and onsite instruction and activities, drawing on the best of both media. Let’s look at three important factors – direct instruction, homework and practice, and class meeting schedules – to examine how the two formats often differ.  

Direct Instruction

In the flipped model, students typically receive instruction at home in the form of online videos or tutorials. Flipped models emphasize active, exploratory learning building upon foundational knowledge obtained before class meetings. In the blended model, direct instruction can occur either online or in-class.  Methods are mixed or matched to meet the needs of the lesson. Blended instruction also emphasizes options; students are usually given more control over the path and pace for learning key concepts. This also requires the professor to differentiate instruction, considering different learning preferences and abilities.

Homework and Practice

In the flipped model, homework and practice are largely completed in-class, where students can work with others and get immediate help from the instructor. Assistance is provided just-in-time, preventing students from languishing at home when confusion arises. This model works well for courses that require complicated, multi-step procedures. In the blended model, homework and practice are typically completed online or at-home. Emphasis is placed on providing students with more control over the learning products they generate. Online interaction with peers and the instructor bridges the time between class meetings and keeps students engaged in the course.

Class Schedule

In the flipped model, the traditional class schedule is preserved. Students continue to meet at regularly scheduled times. In the blended model, the traditional class schedule is altered. The definition of what constitutes a blended course varies by institution. Generally, blended higher education courses contain a significant amount of online instruction and activities, so face-to-face time is reduced to balance the total workload. Blended courses are sometimes favored for their schedule flexibility, which can address certain conflicts of time and space.

 If you are interested in exploring flipped or blended learning, PLU provides workshops, resources, and consultations for faculty.  We would love to know about your experiences with either format. You can also share your thoughts in comment section below.
Originally published 9/24/2014 in PLU’s Instructional Technologies blog

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