Blended and Hybrid Learning Methods


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This article will attempt to convince the reader that a blended learning approach, where an online course is supplemented by one or more classroom sessions along with several other potential delivery methods, has the greatest potential for a strong learning outcome and student satisfaction. The artic|e's contents are largely based on this author’s experience teaching a hybrid class at California State University, the research he did for his doctoral dissertation, along with an article he wrote for the Wilberforce University Faculty Journal.

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Blended and Hybrid Learning Methods

  1. 1. Blended and Hybrid Learning Methods. Combining online education with the traditional classroom-based approach. By Dr. Rick Sheridan, Assistant professor of communications, Wilberforce University. Abstract: This article will attempt to convince the reader that a blended learning approach, where an online course is supplemented by one or more classroom sessions along with several other potential delivery methods, has the greatest potential for a strong learning outcome and student satisfaction. The article's contents are largely based on this author’s experience teaching a hybrid class at California State University, the research he did for his doctoral dissertation, along with an article he wrote for the Wilberforce University Faculty Journal. During the last 15 years there has been a large increase in Internet-based distance education courses offered by colleges and universities throughout the United States. While these online courses offer an opportunity to expanded enrollment with lower administration costs, there have been numerous complaints from students. These complaints range from the frustration of learning a new technology to a sense of isolation while taking the course alone, at home. Despite the problems, online education has proven to be a viable method of instruction, and combined with blended learning, can be a fully successful approach. Introduction: Blended learning combines the benefits of traditional instructor-led training with the advantages of independent, self-paced learning. The term blended learning is used to describe a teaching approach that combines several different delivery methods, such as face-to-face lecturing, self- paced and instructor-led Internet-based courses, instructional software, along with other components, (Bershin, 2004). Some of the advantages of blended learning include the typical student-teacher interaction of a traditional classroom combined with the advantages of online learning, including potential cost reduction, elimination of distance barriers, time flexibility, and the adaptation of the learning materials to different learning styles. Typically, blended learning courses are those in which a significant portion of the learning activities have been placed online and in-class time has been reduced but not eliminated. The goal with these classes is to combine the best features of the in class and the online class models. Blended learning approaches are becoming more popular with the expansion of Internet-based online learning. In the late 1990s many schools and universities experimented with online learning. This offered many benefits, such as the ability to deliver a course from any location, the possibility of lower costs for students and institutions, etc. Unfortunately there were many complaints from students. These included problems such as difficulty with the technology, boredom with the format, and a sense of isolation from the traditional classroom (Twigg, 1997). Blended learning includes most of the benefits of an entirely-online course, but provides for some face-to-face interaction between students and the instructor, along with the option of
  2. 2. including traditional printed learning materials and other resources. Face-to-face interaction complements online learning by communicating body language and subtle nuances which cannot be expressed through online-only communications. When blended properly, online learning and face-to-face interaction mutually reinforce each other, giving clients the most cost- efficient and effective solution possible. The author of this article believes that the blended learning method can be very effective and answers many of the criticisms of each individual method of delivery. He has personal experience teaching a hybrid class that combined classroom instruction with online support along with other experimental approaches. In 1999, he taught a Social Science course (Introduction to the Internet) at California State University, Chico. The class met once a week for an hour, and students accessed the class website during the week to complete the required projects. The author posted several case studies and questions, along with reference materials related to the course content. Oblinger and Maruyama (1996) indicate that a combination of traditional and online instruction is the most effective approach to many situations. One study they cite suggests that students enrolled in blended learning courses are more successful compared to face-to-face courses and online-only courses. According to this article, hybrid-teaching structures can address issues and accomplish instructional results neither a traditional nor an online course could by itself. Another study indicates that there is no best method of education, because students have different learning styles, needs, and preferences. Young (2002) points out that even with all the modern educational technology available, human interaction is still preferred by many students. This supports the authors’ observations while teaching his hybrid class. Without the hour of face-to-face meeting time, many of the students’ questions could not have been answered effectively. Previously, many U.S. universities focused on developing online courses that required no face-to-face meetings. Many of these efforts have failed and colleges reported high dropout rates in classes that are completely online. The hybrid model is currently used by both educational and corporate audiences. IBM (corporation) combines several types of conventional and e-learning methodologies. They run a course in which the participants start with an instructor-led online course, then move on to a self-study course that includes online simulations and discussion groups, followed six months later by a week-long classroom course. Throughout, informal learning materials and performance support tools are also available. Blended courses also have varied in how the classroom-to-online time is distributed. In a Hybrid Course Project Study, instructors have varied in reducing class time from 25% to 50%. They also scheduled their courses very differently. For example, some replaced one class per week with online assignments. Others met with their students in class for several weeks and then suspended class meetings for several weeks as the students worked independently or in teams on online assignments. One blended learning instructor simply replaced the last 30 minutes of a weekly night course with online work to ensure that students were prepared to participate in the in-class discussions, (Aycock, Garnhma, Kaleta 2002). Some colleges in the United States have turned failing online courses into successful blended
  3. 3. learning courses, after deciding that some activities are better done in-person. An example would be an online technology class offered by Marlboro College (U.S.) in 2005. The college quickly organized several in-person workshops mid-semester to supplement virtual sessions. Another interesting example comes from the Center for Distributed Learning at University of Central Florida where they recommend a ‘90-10 Rule.’ The 90-10 Rule states that both 100% face-to-face courses and 100% Internet-based courses are inferior to blended learning or mixed courses. For some students and subject matters, the most effective mix will be as much as 90% face-to-face and only 10% Internet-based. For other circumstances, the most effective mix will be as much as 90% Internet-based and 10% face-to-face. Usually the optimum mix will be between 90-10 and 10-90. This way, the face-to-face students benefit from the online technology, while the Internet-based students will benefit from instructor-led interaction (Brown 2005). Resource-based learning is similar to blended learning in the design, delivery and management of courses, and includes some additional learning resources. Two of the main features of resource-based learning are its adaptability to different learning styles and the encouragement of student autonomy. Resource-based learning involves active participation with multiple resources (the Internet, books, newspapers, and multi-media), and operates on the idea that students learn best by doing. This is a similar approach to what the author of this thesis advocates. In summary, blended learning has the potential of combining the best features of a traditional classroom learning situation, with the added flexibility and expanded reach of an Internet-based online course. There are several components that will need additional research and implementation before the concept of blended learning will be fully adapted. Meanwhile, institutions are experimenting with forms of blended learning that are best suited to their individual needs. The author believes that blended learning is a promising development and shows excellent future potential for helping the subject group determine what is available and combine the most relevant options for their needs, even though it is often limited to a combination of classroom and online delivery, (Sheridan, 2006). Teaching approaches and strategies: Here is an excellent summary of some of the most common teaching and learning styles, summarized from: Glossary of Teaching & Learning Strategies blog, by Tim Gauntley (Accessed July 11, 2013 from ACTIVITY-BASED APPROACHES: Debate, Discussion, Games, Presentation, Repetition, Simulation. ARTS-RELATED APPROACHES: Choreography, Collage, Docudrama, Improvisation, Mask Making, Puppetry, Sketching to Learn, Storyboarding, etc. COOPERATIVE APPROACHES: Buddy System, Collaborative Teaching, Community Resources, Conflict Resolution, Discussion, Experiential Learning, Interviewing, Literature Circles, Mentoring, Peer Teaching, Round Table Discussions, etc. DIRECT INSTRUCTION APPROACHES: Book Discussions, Conferencing, Demonstration, Activity Based Learning, Flash Cards, Guest Speaker Guided Reading and Writing, Lecture,
  4. 4. Mnemonic Devices, Practice and Drill, Programmed Learning Prompt, Read Aloud, Reciprocal Teaching, Review Seminars, Socratic Dialogue, Story Mapping, Storytelling, Task Cards, Textbook Learning, Visual Storytelling, Visualization, Word Sort, Work Sheets and Handouts, etc. INDEPENDENT LEARNING APPROACHES: Apprenticeship, Homework, Independent Reading, Independent Study, Internships, Learning Contract, Learning Journal, Memorization, Portfolio Development, Reflection, Report, Response Journal, Self-Directed Learning. INQUIRY AND RESEARCH MODEL APPROACHES: Cognitive Skills Model, Decision-Making Models, Historical/Geographic Inquiry, Inquiry Process, Mathematical Problem Solving , Problem-Based Models, Questioning Process, Research Process, Scientific Method, Technical Design Process, Writing Process. LEARNING STYLES: Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence, Interpersonal Intelligence, Intrapersonal Intelligence, Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Musical-Rhythmic Intelligence, Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence, Visual-Spatial Intelligence, Rote Learning. MEDIA-BASED APPROACHES: Communication Applications, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Computer-Assisted Instruction, Database Applications, Email Applications, Graphic Applications, Internet Technologies, Media Presentation, Media Production, Multimedia Applications, Internet Based Online Learning, Spreadsheet Applications, Time-Management Applications. THINKING SKILLS APPROACHES: Analyzing Bias/ Stereotype, Anticipation Guide, Brainstorming, Case Study, Classifying, Concept Clarification, Concept Mapping, Debating from Both Perspectives, Estimating, Experimenting, Fair Test, Graphing, Issue-Based Analysis, Lateral Thinking, Mind Mapping, Media Analysis, Mental Calculation, Metacognitive Reflection, Model Making, Oral Explanation, Problem Solving, Process Notes, Semantic Feature Analysis, Seriation, Statistical Analysis, Think Aloud, Visual/Graphic Organizers, Writing to Learn. References: Aycock, A. Garnham, C. and Kaleta, R., 2006. Lessons Learned from the Hybrid Course Project. (Accessed from Publication date: March 20, 2002). Bershin, J. The blended book of learning. San Francisco, USA: Pfeiffer, 2004. Brown, M. (2005) Learning Spaces in Oblinger, D. and Oblinger, J (ed) (2005) Educating the Net Generation’ Educause, Retrieved March 10, 2006 from Oblinger, D. & Gauntley, T. Glossary of Teaching & Learning Strategies blog. (Accessed July 11, 2013 from Maruyama M. Distributed learning. Boulder, USA: Cause Professional Paper Series, # 14, 1996. Sheridan, R. Good Ideas for Educational Technology. Boulder, USA: Educause Quarterly, 2006. Sorg, S., Bledsoe, R., & Juge, F. Hybrid Courses are Best. The Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida, 2002. Twigg, C. A. (1997). Is technology a silver bullet? Educom Review, March/April: 28-29. Young, J. Hybrid Teaching Seeks to End Divide between Traditional and Online Instruction. The Chronicle of Higher Education. March 22, 2002.
  5. 5. About the author: Dr. Rick Sheridan is an assistant professor of communication at Wilberforce University in Ohio. He has taught college-level journalism, graphics and business courses for the last 16 years. Rick teaches and consults in the areas of: workplace writing skills, social media in the classroom, online reputation management, and new course development. Rick specializes in making complex materials more understandable. For more information, go to: