Self-Blend Model: Definition, Application & Examples

Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine is an instructional designer, educator, and writer with a particular interest in the social sciences and American studies.

What does self-blended learning look like? This lesson provides an overview of the self-blended model and evolving concepts associated with this prevalent form of blended learning.

What is the Self-Blend Model?

A motivated 12th grader named Makayla has done well in the Advanced Placement (AP) History course offered at her high school. She's excited about receiving college credit for her work.

Makayla wants to major in economics in college, so she's eager to get a jump on learning more about this discipline. Unfortunately, her school doesn't offer an AP Economics course.

One option for Makayla to consider is taking the course online, outside of school hours. This is one example of the self-blend model of blended learning. Blended learning combines in-person instruction with online learning. In the self-blend model, students like Makayla supplement their typical school classes with at least one online class of their choosing.

Some describe this model as the a la carte approach to blended learning. When students use the self-blend - or a la carte - model of blended learning, they choose from the menu of online options - just like picking ice cream as your dessert at a restaurant, while someone else might choose the cherry pie.

Reasons to Self-Blend

Not every self-blend student is like Makayla. Here are the most common reasons for students to consider the self-blend model, starting with Makayla's case:

  • To follow a desire to take a bonus class out of personal motivation or interest; for example, students who want AP credit or have particular interests that aren't covered in their own school.
  • To meet a school requirement for students to experience online learning; for example, some schools have a self-blending requirement in which at least one course must be taken online before graduation.
  • For the purpose of credit recovery; for example, students who have missed out on credits from dropping out, failing, or missing school due to illness or other challenges.

Distinguishing Features of the Self-Blend Model

Let's consider the important elements that make up the self-blend model, as opposed to other forms of blended learning.

  • Self-blended learning is not full-time online learning. Only certain courses take place online.
  • Self-blended learning is not a whole school experience. Not everyone in the school is supplementing their learning in the same way, with the same courses.
  • Self-blending is not ideal for students who lack motivation and support. Students must put in a great deal of effort without the usual in-person contact they'd receive in a classroom.
  • Self-blending learning is typically not appropriate for younger students who have not yet developed the discipline and independence to complete courses on their own. Self-blended learning is considered most appropriate for high school students.

Applications of the Self-Blend Model

While describing self-blending in this lesson, we've focused on a remote learning approach. This means students take the courses at home, or in another place with Internet access.

By contrast, an online lab approach is when a school provides a physical environment - such as a computer lab or lounge - so that students can access an online platform.

Let's use Makayla's situation as an example.

  • Remote learning approach: Makayla registers for an AP course offered by an online school. She takes the course either at home or in another place with Internet access, like a library.
  • Online lab approach: Makayla's school offers an AP Economics course that can be completed in a lab environment provided by the school for this purpose. Makayla takes this course during one period of her school day. The course has an online instructor and assistant teachers who circulate the lab itself, providing additional in-person support.

It is important to note that some definitions of blended learning consider the online lab approach distinct from the self-blend model. Since definitions are evolving even as we speak, be sure to check with your local school to understand how they use these and other terms related to blended learning.

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