Sorting through the definitions of blended and hybrid learning

December 2, 2013

Blended Learning part 2

Blended learning. Hybrid learning. Technology-enhanced learning. Online learning. E-learning. 

21st century technology introduced a lot of terms to the process of teaching and learning. The face-to-face classroom-based format of education is changing at all levels from kindergarten to graduate and professional schools. Some may argue that students of the 21st century learn best with one of the many variations of e-learning. Perhaps, the more valid argument is that the millennial student learns best when they are more engaged in the process. Since they grew up in a very technological and entertainment-focused world, they are more likely to be engaged with some form of e-learning. 

There are many different conceptual terms that refer to curricula that engage students with some type of computer-based or Internet-based learning. As these concepts move beyond their infancy, the terms that were at one time randomly assigned to any type of teaching with technology are becoming more purposeful.

In the global education realm, online learning and e-learning are synonymous. These terms specifically refer to the use of electronic media and information and communication technologies in education. Technology-enhanced learning is a similar term (used more often in the UK) that focuses specifically on e-learning elements and the e-learning environment. These 3 terms specifically refer to the learning elements or part of the curriculum that use the information and communication technologies. The degree to which these elements are used makes online learning and e-learning different from blended and hybrid learning (also two terms typically used synonymously). Blended and hybrid learning occurs when a formal educational plan is established that utilizes both online learning and face-to-face learning.

Although it is important to keep a finger on the pulse of how these various concepts are being defined globally, it is equally important to share a common understanding of the terms within our own campus teaching and learning culture.

In September 2012, the UW-Platteville Faculty Senate voted on a hybrid course policy that carefully articulates several definitions for the campus community.

A traditional, synchronous course is one with regularly scheduled face-to-face class meetings. Course content may be delivered in a variety of ways including classroom lectures, laboratories, and discussion sessions with the caveat that all communication is synchronous; the instructor(s) and students in a section meet as a group and converse in real time.

Distance learning includes no face-to-face class meetings; all content is delivered using online or other out-of-class mechanisms. For instance, a distance course could be completed only using printed materials mailed back and forth between instructor and student. Online learning occurs when all content for a distance course is delivered electronically.

At UW-Platteville, hybrid learning specifically defines a course for which at least 10% and up to 99% of the standard scheduled face-to-face class meeting time has been replaced by asynchronous communications between the instructor and the students. 

So where does blended learning fit with this policy? In the global sense, blended learning and hybrid learning define the same concept; however, at UW-Platteville the term hybrid learning refers to blended learning when the use of information and communication technology components leads to a reduction of seat time. A hybrid course requires a reduction of seat time. Blended learning and technology-enhanced learning will continue to refer to any formal educational plan that utilizes both online learning and face-to-face learning with no requirement of a reduction of seat time.


Watch for the 3rd and final post in this Blended Learning series - a 2014 wish list for blended and hybrid learning at UW-Platteville.

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