Distance learning just got exciting, and there are a bunch of new buzzwords to go along with it. Two of the most popular terms are hybrid learning and blended learning. On the surface, these may sound like the same thing, but they aren't. Understanding that people's learning styles and circumstances vary widely, there is much research on new learning models. Not every student has or can return to the classroom, and schools are adopting these new learning models.
What is Hybrid Learning?
Hybrid learning is about the makeup of the classroom, not a teaching method. Students in a hybrid learning situation may attend class in the traditional way, while other students join remotely via video conferencing platforms like Zoom. The teacher effectively instructs both groups together.
Students are not obligated to attend class in either way; they're free to choose online or in person. Some will attend class in person all of the time, while others only online; still other students may choose a combination depending on need or preference.
As hybrid learning includes video conferencing, it's clear it relies heavily on technology for communication and incorporates education technology and e-learning tools.
What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning is a teaching strategy where the teacher uses both in-person and online tools. The student is present with the teacher in the classroom (or other dedicated space), and the focus of blended learning is on the student's learning, the resources and tools used, and not the environment at all. They'll do some of their lessons traditionally, in person, and other tasks online. The aim is that these methods will work together to create an effective learning experience for the student.
The idea of combining in-person methods with online lessons isn't new to education. The flipped classroom is an example of blended learning.
What Are the Differences Between Hybrid & Blended Learning?
The main difference between hybrid and blended learning is the philosophy and implementation - how they use in-person and online learning. While one uses online learning as a supplement to classwork, adding internet resources like videos, podcasts, and other things to aid the student in learning, the other uses online video conferencing to replace the in-class experience.
Hybrid learning is situational, allowing students to attend class in person or via an online platform. This is entirely different from blended learning, which takes traditional in-person classroom teaching and combines online resources for the benefit of the student.
Hybrid and blended learning use different resources to achieve their goals. Teachers in a hybrid setting can choose their resources from standard in-class materials like textbooks or e-learning materials. Students in class or those joining online can have the same textbook or all use e-learning with instruction from the teacher. The resources chosen depend on the teacher and their preferences.
In a blended lesson, the teacher combines e-learning (online) and in-class resources as a necessity. The very methodology of blended learning calls for combining both types of resources. This is so students can work at their own pace and achieve their individual learning goals.
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Where the learning happens is another difference. In the hybrid setting, students and their teachers can be anywhere they choose. It only needs the students and teachers to be 'together,' some in-person and others via video conferencing, for the lesson to occur. If there is no combination of remote and in-person students, it isn't a hybrid learning experience. So, the location of the students is everything in hybrid learning.
For blended learning, the in-person aspect is crucial. The learning can take place in almost any location (internet accessible) if both the student and teacher are physically present together. If the whole experience is online, it isn't blended. It also isn't blended if the learning doesn't happen in person.
The Limitations of Hybrid and Blended Learning
Although they are both excellent learning experiences, they have their limitations.
Limitations of Hybrid Learning
Hybrid learning requires the teacher to spend adequate time and attention on all students - those physically present and those joining online. This is a huge undertaking, as many teachers in traditional classrooms will share how challenging it is for them to meet the needs of their students.
It is unlikely that each student will receive the attention and assistance they need during the usual class time. Of course, every student won't need the teacher's individual attention, but unless the class is small, even those who do need attention are unlikely to receive enough of it. Not to mention that the needs of the two groups may be conflicting, making this an even more challenging situation.
Also, depending on the teacher's preference, one group may receive more focused instruction than the other. For instance, if the teachers feel more comfortable directing their teaching toward those physically present students, those online may feel neglected.
Limitations of Blended Learning
If the blended learning incorporates the online component as homework, it may be inconsistently completed. This means the teacher has the undesirable choice of spending needed class time completing that work before students can do the in-person part. Or they can move on, knowing that some students will be left behind.
For blended learning to be effective, teachers and students need to understand the importance of both aspects.
The Benefits of Blended Learning
- Supports meta-learning
- Requires less in-person time than a purely in-person learning experience
- Adaptable to students' needs
- High potential for personalization
The Benefits of Hybrid Learning
- Flexible for time and location
- Allows for study from home
- Potential of interacting with students from many locations
Although you often hear the terms hybrid learning and blended learning interchangeably, they are not the same at all. They are similar in some ways, but each has its strengths and weaknesses, as we have shown above.
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