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Blended Modality

Blended courses are a structural decision as much as they are a pedagogical one because they operate through a replacement model. What that means is that you take an in-person course and replace some of the in-person time (e.g., live lecture or content delivery) with online elements (e.g., recorded lecture). 

For example, if your course was scheduled for in-person meetings two times per week, in a blended format you might shift to just once per week for the in-person meeting with the other weekly meeting in an online (synchronous or asynchronous) format. 

It is important to note that in a blended course, your credit hours would stay the same because the content or activities are simply shifted online. So, blended courses are a structural change that combines in-person and online pedagogies. People also refer to these kinds of courses as hybrids, which is interchangeable with blended.

Blended Models for Consideration 

Choosing one of the blended models could depend on your course topic, learning objectives, the level of your students and a range of other variables. Below, you'll find eight models to choose from.
For each of these models, you will need to:

  • Check the COVID capacity of your currently assigned classroom to see if your currently enrolled students can fit into the space once social distancing measures are in place.
  • If the current classroom will not fit your enrolled students, talk with your department head or other department administrators to see if another classroom is available, or if you have the option of offering split sections so that students attend on alternating days.
  • If the room is not large enough to accommodate split sections, you should consider one of the other blended or online modality options.
  • Adjust your teaching plans accordingly to allow for online (synchronous or asynchronous) activities and tasks.
  • Describe the in-person and online requirements for your course in the syllabus and discuss those elements on the first day of the course so that students know what is expected to successfully complete the course.
  • Create a back-up plan if the in-person elements of the course are disrupted by the university going entirely remote or due to other complexities caused by COVID-19.
  • Depending on the blended model that you choose, you may also need to check to ensure your classroom has the appropriate technology to allow for remote Zoom lecture and/or facilitation, streaming video capacity, and appropriate sound support.
In-Person Driver

This kind of blended course would have topics or content introduced during the in-person component of the course, and then students would practice and reinforce what they learned through the online component. This kind of in-person driver model can work well with topics such as mathematics or science, where students might see a demonstration and ask a lot of follow-up questions in-person, and then engage the concepts on their own working through practice problem sets online.

  • You get to see students as they are learning a concept for the first time and check their comprehension in real-time.
  • It may also be easier to set up practice problem sets as homework using textbook supplements that come ready-made.
  • Can create a challenge for students who may think they know the material when they are with you in class, but then when they go to practice at home find themselves confused or with more questions.
  • These kinds of courses may need to provide additional support through TAs or online office hours so that students can ask questions as they are working through practice problems.
  • Opportunities to practice online, when not provided as a supplement to a textbook, can be time-consuming for the instructor to create.

Another model of a blended course is called an online-driver. This is also sometimes referred to as a “flipped” classroom model. A blended course in the online driver model works in the opposite way to the in-person driver. Rather than have concepts presented in-person first, the concepts are instead introduced online, with the in-person component of the course used for students to practice and apply what they have learned. The flipped model works well for courses that have a lot of active learning components, such as small-group work, team-based learning, lots of discussion, or student-led presentations.

  • You can share a lot of content with students before the course starts so that more time can be spent in-person on active learning activities. As long as students engage with that content, the in-person elements of the course can be lively, engaging, and build on students’ knowledge of the online materials.
  • There is a range of open educational resource materials available to share with students. Videos, simulations, demonstrations, games, and more are now free for instructors to incorporate into their courses.
  • Can encourage students to procrastinate reviewing the course materials if they think that the in-person part of the course is just going to explain everything to them that they would have learned on their own. It's important to make sure the in-person element of the course is building on the online pieces so that students don't see those elements as repetitious or busywork.
  • An instructor may need to create online materials from scratch for their students depending on the topic of the course they are teaching. If the course is in a specific niche, there may be sparse ready-made or open educational resources to draw upon.
Remote Lecture (also called Remote Presence in the in-person model)

In this version of a blended course, some or all students will be physically present in the classroom, but the instructor will be remotely presenting via Zoom. Classroom instruction will take place during the assigned class time, although some homework and supplemental course materials may be offered through the course Canvas site.

  • Instructors can maintain social distancing from the physical classroom.
  • The instructor's lecture and/or facilitation can also be recorded for students who cannot be physically present, or students who need to attend the course remotely can join the instructor in the Zoom environment.
  • Offers a high amount of flexibility for both instructors or students who may be ill or in quarantine.
  • Many courses will exceed the COVID capacity for the classroom size and instructors may not have the option of choosing for their students to be in the same physical space at the same time. 
  • Requires appropriate social distancing and other safety measures to ensure student safety so certain classroom activities, such as small group work, may need to be modified. 
  • It may be challenging to facilitate certain classroom activities from a remote location and some classroom activities will need to be prepared in advance to ensure students have the materials they need to complete the in-class work.
Split Sections

In this version of a blended course, students would be split into different sections to accommodate the safety requirements of social distancing based on COVID capacity. For example, a third of the class might meet in person on Monday, another third on Wednesday, and another third on Friday, with the remainder of the class seat time for each group of students occurring online. This model requires technology in the classroom that will accommodate lecture recording or live streaming for those students who are not attending in person. Testing may require the use of alternative or online assessments.

  • Students can maintain social distancing in the physical classroom.
  • All students experience the same amount of seat time over the semester. 
  • Although the students in this model are experiencing social distancing from each other and are only interacting with a small number of their peers, the instructor will see all students each week throughout the term and will have more exposure to more people overall. 
  • Given that each class learning experience is somewhat different, students' classroom experiences will differ, depending on which day of the week they attend.
  • Can be challenging to coordinate the multiple groups of students.
Alternating Weeks

This model of a blended course would have students meeting in the classroom during alternating weeks of the course, with the other weeks taking place online. The alternating weeks' models can work especially well for team-based or project-based courses, research-heavy courses, or courses where students are more advanced and doing independent work on their own. The alternating weeks model also pairs well with the experiential learning model described below.

  • The flexibility that it offers the instructor and the students during the weeks that they are not expected to meet in-person.
  • The alternating weeks' format also offers students a good amount of project time to work independently or in teams.
  • This format can also free up a lot of classroom space when used at scale.
  • Students can feel disconnected from the instructor or each other if there is not strong engagement in the online components of the course.
  • Students might fall behind if they are not completing their assigned work in between the in-person meetings.
  • If combined with a team-based or independent project, this model expects that students will have some level of project management skills to help them be successful.
Experiential Learning

Another model of a blended course is one that focuses on experiential learning. This might include a service-learning component that is completed online or outside of the classroom environment, a course focused on team-based learning, an internship experience, or any other time that you are replacing part of the class time with an experience-based learning opportunity. The experiential learning model also pairs well with the alternating weeks model.

  • In-person time can be minimized and scheduled such that all students do not need to attend on the same days.
  • This kind of course can help students connect what they are learning in the classroom into a real-world situation or circumstance that makes the course material more relevant to their current lives or their lives post-college. Incorporating a journal or other reflective component in this kind of course can help students to process these connections.
  • Students’ experiences outside of the classroom can often create rich content for in-person discussions and activities.
  • Experiential learning can involve challenging logistics to make sure that everything is functioning as it should to create an optimal learning experience. Service-learning can involve risk management concerns, and team-based learning may require additional check-ins from the instructor to make sure that interpersonal relationships among students are remaining productive rather than creating challenges for learning.
  • Students will be able to socialize with small groups, but will not be able to meet all of their classmates.

The hyflex blended model is one of the more flexible (hence its name), but also one of the more challenging to pull off. In the hyflex model, students are able to choose which modality, whether in-person or online, they want to engage with during any point in the course. For example, a student could attend in-person on Monday, but then decide to engage in the course online on Wednesday.

  • It can serve large numbers of students in ways that are personalized to their learning preferences.
  • This kind of structure works especially well for large-enrollment lecture-style courses where students would receive a similar experience whether online or in-person.
  • Hyflex courses can be responsive to changes in the context or environment of an institution because they are nimble enough to shift modality at a moment's notice.
  • In smaller courses, or in courses that include a lot of active learning engagement throughout, the hyflex model can cause some challenges since instructors must be prepared for any amount of student to engage in either modality.
  • Hyflex models require technology that accommodates not only live lecture or recording, but also the ability to capture student discussions. It may also require Zoom capability so that online learners can participate.
Online Interactive

Online interactive course models have the majority of the course being held online, but there may be certain activities that are offered in the in-person environment such as exams, certain requirements related to labs, or other experiential learning requirements. Because some of the course will require students to complete an in-person component, it is important to ensure that students are aware of this element of the course and that they are capable of completing that in-person element.

  • Online interactive courses can allow for students to learn and demonstrate applied skills that may be harder to assess in the online classroom.
  • These courses can utilize asynchronous and synchronous elements, while also including experiential learning components that are difficult to translate for the online modality.
  • Since online interactive courses require students to complete an in-person component, it is important to ensure that students are aware of this element of the course and that they are capable of completing that in-person element. 
  • If students do not live locally to the university, there may need to be accommodations if they are expected to complete in-person elements.