Hybrid And Blended Learning In Higher Education

Higher education has been transformed by technology to better meet students’ unique learning needs and styles. These innovations have changed how and where students study, from learning management systems (LMS) to adaptive learning software and video conferencing. For more than a decade, many colleges and universities have successfully integrated distance learning and educational technology into their curricula. More than a third of college and university students took at least one online course in 2018, indicating a steady move away from conventional classrooms.

Hybrid and blended learning models are important for higher education institutions to sustain enrolment and enable students to continue learning safely during periods of crisis or instability, such as the recent global pandemic. According to a survey conducted by the Institute of International Education (IIE), almost nine out of ten higher education institutions used a blended learning model in the fall of 2020.

So, it is important to recognize the concepts of hybrid and blended learning and be prepared to adopt and refine these frameworks to achieve learning outcomes as reopening guidelines for higher education institutions continue to develop.

What Is Hybrid Learning?

Hybrid learning is when conventional face-to-face teaching is combined with offline or distance learning approaches, like experiential learning and remote course delivery. The aim is to use the right combination of learning strategies to efficiently teach content while still meeting students’ learning needs. The additional learning strategies are intended to supplement rather than replace conventional face-to-face training. If a class meets two days per week, for example, a hybrid learning teacher can schedule one day for an in-class lecture and the other for a hands-on lab or online assignment.

Here are some examples of hybrid learning tools:

  • Video conferencing
  • Learning management systems
  • Online tasks
  • Online discussion boards
  • Pre-recorded video training

What Is Blended Learning?

Blended learning combines offline and online learning. Blended learning, unlike hybrid learning, uses online teaching to supplement rather than replace conventional face-to-face instruction. In blended learning, students engage online to complete assignments, ask questions, connect with other students, and remotely communicate with their teachers. Using the example above, a blended learning teacher can schedule face-to-face training on both days and delegate students to write an online forum post outside class time.

Hybrid Versus Blended Learning

While hybrid and blended learning are often used interchangeably, there is a distinction between the two. Blended learning focuses primarily on combining distance learning with standard teaching, while hybrid learning focuses on using any available learning methodology to better teach the material, whether online or offline. Another distinction is that blended learning emphasizes an equal mix of distance learning and conventional instruction, while hybrid learning emphasizes online or non-traditional instruction.

Hybrid And Blended Learning Benefits

Though hybrid and blended learning slightly vary, both use a combination of in-person and online learning to address the demands of busy students. The opportunity to personalize instruction to fulfill the individual needs of each student is the strength of these learning formats. As a result, both hybrid and mixed learning models could be especially well-suited to adults who choose to return to college to complete their degrees.

Here are 5 benefits that these teaching styles incorporate:

1. Students Get The Convenience Of Online Learning Combined With The Regularity Of In-Class Sessions

Especially for working students, these learning formats enable them to study at their own speed, at least to some degree. The more complex or hands-on subjects can be discussed in a conventional classroom environment, while other subject matter can be encouraged digitally through blended and hybrid models.

2. Some Students Perform Better With Hybrid Learning

Students are concerned about balancing their busy lives with studies in a way that allows them to succeed in college, but in some cases, blended learning models may actually boost students’ performance. According to recent studies, blended and hybrid learning can potentially help students improve their grades.

Although students in online classes did marginally better than those in face-to-face courses, students in blended learning programs ultimately outperformed all others, according to another survey by the US Department of Education. The reason for this is that delivering things in a variety of ways helps people remember what they’ve learned. Also, by incorporating technologies into learning models, students are more likely to be engaged and centered.

3. Students Get To Interact With Professors And Classmates Face-To-Face

It’s often easier to make in-person contacts than to network successfully online. Face-to-face course components allow students to interact with their professors or peers during classes or ask questions, which can be extremely useful when students are in a hurry to finish an assignment or take an exam.

4. Students Have Ownership Over Their Own Learning

Increased student autonomy is another advantage in mixed and integrated learning models. The combination of conventional classes with flexible, online learning will truly inspire students to set their own goals, chart their progress, and figure out their own opportunities. Many of these abilities are transferrable to the workplace.

5. Learning Is Equitable

In-person classes also allow the most extroverted students to dominate dialogs, resulting in fewer points of view being shared in discussions. For students who are not the most assertive people in person, or English isn’t their first language, online courses offer them the opportunity to shape and contribute thoughtful responses. Besides, think of students with physical difficulties or disorders who need special equipment that is difficult to accommodate in a classroom environment, or students with ASD that are noise and distraction susceptible. Blended and hybrid learning provide all of these students with an equal chance to excel in an online world that is inherently quieter, cleaner, and easier to adapt to individual needs.

Are There Disadvantages?

1. Technological Infrastructure

The most notable drawback is that hybrid and blended learning often depend on technologies to provide online learning experiences. For digital platforms and online assets to have a positive effect, they must be dependable, simple to use, and up-to-date. Professors’ technological problems, whether perceived or actual, can be a major hurdle, so it’s critical to set in place steps to ensure high availability and good technical assistance. Generation Z students demand a consistent, high-quality multimedia learning experience. When transitioning to a hybrid or blended learning platform, there are a few important issues to consider:

  • Will the network handle an explosion of traffic from off-campus?
  • Is there a good way for students to work together online?
  • How can professors handle assignments and grading?
  • What are the video conferencing options?
  • What integrations are available to make an experience more streamlined?
  • Is there a system in place to secure student data and course materials?

2. Course Design 

Professors need to be aware that what works for in-person training does not work for online training. Current courses should not be assumed to be ready for online delivery. It is important to analyze students’ behavior, determine what they need to remember, review the course content, and use this information to create a blended learning approach. The full benefits of hybrid and mixed learning will be realized by institutions that strategically weld conventional and online teaching.

When Hybrid And Blended Learning Outlive Coronavirus

Can the rapid use of online learning continue until COVID-19 is eradicated? Experts agree that online learning will continue to be incorporated into higher education, particularly now that so many universities are experimenting with and improving these models. Creating a hybrid model can be just as satisfying as creating a new program. However, online learning approaches present a number of technological and usability issues.

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