Some students have prior knowledge that is difficult to quantify, and may learn much more quickly than the teacher can anticipate; perhaps completing the learning in 20 minutes. Others may have difficulties and may learn more slowly than anticipated; perhaps requiring 60 minutes for the learning to occur.

The teacher may attempt to differentiate by assisting students with difficulties, while providing extra material for students who complete the learning quickly. However, this approach, though well intended, is a remnant of the industrial model of teaching groups of students at the same pace and at the same time. It is management centered rather than learning centered.

It produces rates of teaching similar to that shown in Graph 2.

Technology allows this model to be disbanded, and allows the student to determine what “40 minutes of learning” is. Groups of periods/ “40 minutes of learning” eventually form a “semester of learning,” which is an equally artificial concept.

The author has been teaching a self-paced blended learning course to middle school students for several years and regularly has students who complete a “semester of learning” in half a semester.

graph 1

Graph 1 – The pace of learning in a self-paced blended learning classroom


Graph 1 shows the pace of learning in a self-paced blended learning class during a five week period. Imagine Students M, P and W being constrained to work at a pace determined and controlled by the teacher.

They would probably be bored, and would be wasting a significant percentage of class time as they would complete the learning more quickly than anticipated. Imagine Student K attempting to keep up with the teacher controlled pace of teaching/learning. It would be difficult.

(Next page: Comparing self-paced blended learning in a traditional classroom)