What is Blended Learning?

Blended learning can be described as a robust combination of computer-based instruction and traditional instruction. This is a general term that can be used to refer to a number of models. In some blended learning models students may spend a certain amount of time each day or week in a computer lab outside the classroom. Or a few computers in each classroom can be used to help students get up to speed in certain skills. Some schools define blended learning as primarily online instruction (not classroom based) with periodic face-to-face meetings with teachers and other students.

How is the blended learning model at Mission Dolores Academy unique?

The blended learning model instituted at Mission Dolores Academy provides for complete integration of computer-based learning in the overall core curriculum with computer labs built into each classroom.

It was $500,000 from Seton Education Partners that created an opportunity for Mission Dolores Academy to pioneer Seton’s blended learning model. Seton Managing Partner Scott Hamilton explained that it was the improved learning software and declining computer hardware costs, combined with the economic challenges faced by inner city Catholic schools that led the group to develop the blended learning model they call the Phaedrus Initiative. Mission Dolores Academy became a pilot partner for digital learning as a tool for improving academic results.

“Lots of schools are throwing a couple computers in a classroom and calling it blended learning,” Hamilton says. “This is not the model in use at Mission Dolores Academy. With 15 computers in each classroom, students’ time is balanced between individualized instruction on the computers and small group instruction with their teacher. This consistent approach allows them to stay focused and proceed to the next level more quickly.”

First implemented in Fall 2011, the model allows students in Kindergarten through 8th grade to rotate throughout the day from traditional teacher instruction, to computer learning, to small group activities that reinforce concepts and support students needing more personal attention.


  • The Phaedrus blended learning model provides students with targeted, individualized instruction. If students are behind in a core subject or struggling to master a new skill, the computer-based instruction helps them catch up. If students are ready to move on, it helps them accelerate and learn concepts and skills beyond their grade level.
  • Differentiated small group instruction can be based on daily data derived from computer-based practice.
  • The Mission Dolores Academy Phaedrus Initiative model incorporates a variety of digital learning programs to meet specific educational goals and generate individualized learning paths. Starting the 2012-13 year with the TenMarks program, modules from Kahn Academy and other digital learning resources will be added as needed to best support the curriculum.
  • Classes feel smaller because of the small group instruction and the activity rotation.
  • Teachers find that classroom management is easier when half the students are engaged on the computer at any given time.
  • Digital instruction provides opportunities for students to practice skills individually so teachers can focus on depth and application of concepts to teach higher order of thinking skills.
  • Students like getting immediate feedback and knowing where they stand at any time.
  • Many students are more engaged and focused using online content vs. paper and pencil worksheets.
  • Students control how quickly they go through lessons.
  • Economically disadvantaged students who may not have access to computers at home may be better prepared to compete with more affluent peers.
  • Computer-based instruction prepares students for success in a world where many aspects of job training and education are moving online.
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