Sterling Academy Blog

Blended School vs. Online School: What are the differences?

Posted by J Lee Harshbarger on Dec 3, 2014 8:04:00 AM

When searching the web for information about alternatives to education in a public high school classroom, you may have run across the terms “blended school” and “online school.”  Both types of schools use online curriculum.  So what is the difference?

Blended SchoolIf a student enrolls at an online school, typically all of the learning is done online, including interaction with teachers and with other students.  The main portion of the student’s studying occurs through the online curriculum, which may include recorded lectures, reading material, and written assignments.  Interaction with the teacher is also done online.  How this occurs varies by school.  

In some online schools, there are set class times, where essentially a class session occurs that is similar to what occurs in a school building, except that the teacher is speaking online, and the students raise their hands to ask questions electronically (click a “raise hand” button), and ask questions either by microphone or by text chat.  

In other online schools, where students work completely on their own schedule, there may not be scheduled class times.  In these situations, the students interact with their teachers one-on-one, generally by making an appointment to meet with the teacher.  The meeting may be done via webcam or telephone, or perhaps even text chat.  Some schools may also have an online whiteboard where the teacher can write what he or she is explaining, such as math formulas.

Typically, students enroll in online schools on their own, and work from their homes.  With blended learning, students primarily use an online curriculum, but instead of working out of their homes, they work in a school building.  Blended learning may occur in a public, charter, or private school.  In a blended learning setting, there is a mix of online studying and live classroom interaction.

How much of the studying is done online in a blended setting depends on the school.  In a version of blended learning that is closest to online learning, the students will work most of the time at their computers, using the online curriculum.  At certain points during the day or week, there will be class meetings where students can meet with their teacher and receive some live instruction (generally, going over material that students are having difficulty with), or the students will use this time to participate in group projects.

One type of blended learning is called a “flipped classroom.”  In this model, the students watch the lectures of teachers online at home, and then at school do their “homework,” working with other students and getting assistance from teachers one-on-one or in small groups.

Since blended learning is done both online and in a school building, this must be done in your local area.  Online schooling, however, can be done anywhere – at home or while on the road, as long as you have a good internet connection.  At Sterling Academy, we have students from all over the United States and in other countries.  If you are interested in finding more about our online middle and high school, contact our Enrollment Counselor, Carol Moser, at 866-502-1050 or

Note: If you’d like to see a short video clip from NBC News covering a blended school in Arizona, you can find this on the Curriculum page of our website.  This page also includes a video tour of the curriculum we use.

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Topics: online school, Blended School

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