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Trends in blended/virtual high school education — October 2016


Could you provide information on programs and trends for the blended/hybrid model for high school students?


We have prepared the following memo with information on the blended/hybrid model for high school students. Citations include a link to a free online version, when available. All citations are accompanied by an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the author or publisher of the document. We have not done an evaluation of the methodological rigor of these resources, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Davis, M. (2015). Blended learning research: The seven studies you need to know. Education Week. Retrieved on October 3, 2016, from

Excerpt: One of the biggest complaints about blended learning is that educators don’t know if it really has a positive impact on student achievement, and if so, under what circumstances. But in the last few years, a handful of studies have come out concluding that some programs show at least modest gains using blended learning techniques and tools.

Education Week. (2015). Blended learning: Breaking down barriers (Education Week special report.) Retrieved from

Excerpt: In simple terms, blended learning is a strategy to combine technology-based instruction with traditional, teacher-to-student lessons. And it exists everywhere in school districts these days. This special report examines how K–12 systems are overcoming the challenges related to this approach.

Hanover Research. (2013). Future trends in K–12 education. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

Excerpt: In [this] report, Hanover Research outlines projected trends in K–12 education. Hanover turns to a wide range of secondary literature to outline topics such as personalized learning practices and online and hybrid learning efforts. Throughout, Hanover provides concrete examples of the future of K–12 education through profiles of innovative schools and districts already employing the technology and pedagogical approaches that will be increasingly common in the future.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2014). NMC horizon report: 2014 K–12 edition. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

Excerpt: This volume examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in schools. While there are many local factors affecting the practice of education, there are also issues that transcend regional boundaries and questions common to K–12 education; it was with these questions in mind that this report was created. The NMC Horizon Report: 2014 K–12 Edition is the sixth in the annual K–12 education series of reports and is produced by the NMC in collaboration with the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)… As teachers and students alike become more familiar with and adept at using the Internet, classroom-based learning increasingly includes online learning components, hybrid learning strategies, and an increased focus on collaboration within and outside the classroom. Schools that are making use of hybrid learning models are finding that using both the physical and the virtual learning environments to their highest potentials allows teachers to further personalize the learning experience, engage students in a broader variety of ways, and even extend the learning day. Hybrid models, when designed and implemented effectively, enable students to use the school day for group work and project-based activities, while using the network to access readings, videos, and other learning materials on their own time, leveraging the best of both environments.

Kumi-Yeboah, A., & Smith, P. (2014). Trends of blended learning in K–12 schools: Challenges and possibilities. In L. Kyei-Blankson & E. Ntuli (Eds.), Practical applications and experiences in K–20 blended learning environments (pp. 1–17). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.Retrieved from

Abstract: Blended learning is a well-known and successful instructional model used in higher education and K–12 schools (International Association for K–12 Online Learning, 2012; Watson, 2012). It is estimated that about 37 percent of school districts in the United States had students enrolled in technology-supported distance education courses during the 2004/2005 school year (Zandberg & Lewis, 2008). An increased student population, coupled with the need to reduce educational costs, has led to a high demand for virtual instruction (Watson, 2010). One strongly supported method is blended learning (Watson, 2010). Blended learning is a hybrid of traditional face-to-face and online learning in which instruction occurs through both classroom and online formats, with the online component being a natural extension of traditional classroom learning (Colis & Moonen, 2001). As such, the process may involve a combination of instructional technology formats (e.g., videotape, CD-ROM, Web-based training, film) and face-to-face instructor-led instruction (Driscoll, 2002). Despite its hybrid nature and the potential it holds for transforming classroom instruction, to date, little research exists that examines trends in blended learning and the challenges and possibilities of utilizing this method of instructional delivery at the K–12 level. Further, even less is known about best practices in K–12 blended learning and instruction (Ferdig et al., 2009). Given these considerations, in this chapter, the authors first explore trends in blended learning in K–12 schools. Subsequently, they examine the benefits and challenges of K–12 blended learning. In the final phases of the chapter, the authors highlight possible solutions to the challenges, discuss recommendations, and identify directions for future research.

Staker, H. (2011). The rise of K–12 blended learning: Profiles of emerging models. Redwood City, CA: Innosight Institute. Retrieved from

Excerpt: A small but growing number of schools, however, are starting to introduce blended learning into their core programming for mainstream students … This paper profiles 40 organizations that have blended or have plans to blend online learning with brick-and-mortar classrooms. These represent a range of operators, including state virtual schools, charter management organizations, individual charter schools, independent schools, districts, and private entities.

Organization to consult

EdTech Update: Blended learning trends page

From the website: Browse Blended Learning and Trends content selected by the EdTech Update.


Keywords and Search Strings Used in the Search

“Blended model” OR “hybrid model” AND “high school” AND “trends” OR “program trends”

Search of Databases

EBSCO Host, ERIC, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, Google, and Google Scholar

Criteria for Inclusion

When REL West staff review resources, they consider—among other things—four factors:

  • Date of the Publication: The most current information is included, except in the case of nationally known seminal resources.
  • Source and Funder of the Report/Study/Brief/Article: Priority is given to IES, nationally funded, and certain other vetted sources known for strict attention to research protocols.
  • Methodology: Sources include randomized controlled trial studies, surveys, self-assessments, literature reviews, and policy briefs. Priority for inclusion generally is given to randomized controlled trial study findings, but the reader should note at least the following factors when basing decisions on these resources: numbers of participants (Just a few? Thousands?); selection (Did the participants volunteer for the study or were they chosen?); representation (Were findings generalized from a homogeneous or a diverse pool of participants? Was the study sample representative of the population as a whole?).
  • Existing Knowledge Base: Although we strive to include vetted resources, there are times when the research base is limited or nonexistent. In these cases, we have included the best resources we could find, which may include newspaper articles, interviews with content specialists, organization websites, and other sources.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educators and policymakers in the West Region (Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) at WestEd. This memorandum was prepared by REL West under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-12-C-0002, administered by WestEd. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.