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Blended Classes – the Alternative to Total Online Teaching and Learning

Blended or hybrid classes use a combination of face-to-face instruction and online instruction to give students an integrated approach to the subject matter and optimize the strengths of both delivery methods. 

As we noted earlier, institutions of higher learning have begun to provide instruction over the internet, three separate and distinct methods of delivering instruction have emerged.  Face-to-face instruction remains the predominate mode of instructional delivery at most institutions, though it is common for these classes to be web enhanced, with from 0 to 29 percent of instruction actually delivered online.  Totally online courses have at least 80 percent of the course content, activities, discussions, and assessments occur online, either synchronously or asynchronously.  In between face-to-face instruction and totally online instruction, we have hybrid or blended courses where between 30 to 79 percent of the instruction is delivered online (Allen and Seaman, 2008). 

So, blended or hybrid courses are courses in which significant portions of the learning activities have been moved online, a combination of traditional classroom and internet instruction.  Time traditionally spent in the classroom is reduced but not eliminated. The goal of hybrid courses is to join the best features of in-class teaching with the best features of online learning to promote active independent learning and reduce class seat time.  Using computer-based technologies, you can use the hybrid model to redesign some lecture or lab content into new online learning activities, such as case studies, tutorials, self-testing exercises, simulations, and online group collaborations.

This addition of online learning to the classroom learning has been shown to have advantages over traditional face-to-face instruction when it comes to teaching and learning, according to a new meta-analysis released in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Education.

The study found that students who took all or part of their instruction online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through face-to-face instruction. Further, those who took "blended" courses -- those that combine elements of online learning and face-to-face instruction -- appeared to do best of all.

These resource pages focus primarily on total online courses, but for those interested in a blended approach, here are some resources we have found helpful:

  • Blended Learning Systems: Definitions, Current Trends, and Future Directions
    This chapter by Charles Graham from The Handbook of Blended Learning "addresses five important questions related to blended learning systems: What is blended learning? Why blend? What current blended learning models exist? What issues and challenges are faced when blending? What are the future directions of blended learning systems?"
  • The Hybrid Online Model: Good Practice
    A model for hybrid courses is presented in this article about the experiences of faculty at Baldwin-Wallace College in suburban Cleveland. Course design includes a first face-to-face class, followed by online activities including e-mail, synchronous chat, weekly online quizzes, and asynchronous discussion boards. A final face-to-face class involves the final exam. The authors map the ways in which this course design gel with Chickering and Gamson's Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.
  • Wisconsin-Milwaukee Hybrid Course Site
    The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, under the leadership of Bob Kaleta, is a leader in blended/hybrid course design and evaluation. This site includes the following links: (1) Why Teach Hybrid?, (2) Sample Hybrid Courses, and (3) Student Resources. The site also includes links to the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Blending Life and Learning program, which is supported by a $500,000 grant from the Sloan-Consortium.
  • University of Manitoba wiki on Blended Learning
    Includes a variety of definitions of blended learning, with an excellent proposed definition. Also points to additional resources.
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Last updated: 09/22/2009
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