What is blended learning?

Posted January 30, 2014, by Molly Wiltshire-Bridle
It’s no secret that change is afoot within the world of education and training. The internet has revolutionised how we now access and distribute information, with many going so far as to forestall the imminent death of traditional bricks and mortar institutions.

But what if there was an alternative? A halfway point between the conventional regimen of face-to-face lectures and the ‘detachment’ of wholly online study. Enter blended learning.

Defined as a formal education program in which students learn at least in part through online delivery whilst also attending classes at a physical location, blended learning bridges the gap between two modes of study which are often at loggerheads.

Although there is an infinite array of potential blending proportions and modalities, provided it combines face-to-face instruction with computer-mediated activity (Bonk & Graham 2005), it falls under the umbrella of what is interchangeably referred to as ‘hybrid’ or ‘mixed-mode’ learning.

Incorporating anything from online discussion communities like Blackboard and Moodle through to phone apps, Google Drive, Skype and virtual reality videogames, there is no one-size-fits-all way to ‘blend’. Instead, it exists along more of a continuum, where you might fit in a weekly face-to-face class, or just a single residential school session each semester. 

No matter the format, blended learning looks here to stay. 

Why blended learning?

With its innovative balance of flexibility and structure, blended learning is a real crowd pleaser. 

Students reap the benefits of the malleable study timetable proffered by online learning, with the added advantage of face-to-face peer support and teacher guidance. You can cover the theoretical foundations of your coursework from a laptop in your lounge room, then come in to class to get your hands dirty.

What students learn online informs what they learn face-to-face, and vice versa. The result is a particularly high level of satisfaction, with one survey finding that 84 per cent of students reported an improved understanding of course concepts when using a blended mode of learning.

What’s more, blended learning technologies give students far greater control over their academic experience, providing them with the exibility to learn at their own pace and juggle their course load with other responsibilities.

It all sounds too good to be true, so what’s the catch? It may well be that there isn’t one. Blended learning really is the best of both worlds, particularly if you’re seeking out a way of easing yourself into wholly online study.

It’s time to blend

There’s no denying that blended learning is on the rise across all levels of education, from K-12 right through to the tertiary sector. If you’ve studied anything at university, chances are you’ve already encountered some degree of blended learning (ever submit an assignment online, or review a lecturer’s PowerPoint presentation?), and the technique continues to witness a significant surge at primary and secondary levels.

Thankfully, this means that blended learning courses are becoming more readily available than ever before. 

Here are just a handful of courses available to study in ‘blended mode’; both online and on campus:

Professional TESOL Diploma
Certificate IV in Professional Practice Management (Health)
Certificate IV in Project Management
Diploma of Beauty Therapy
Diploma of Marketing
Bachelor of Business (Hospitality Management)
Bachelor of Business

Have you ever studied using a mode of blended learning? Share your experiences with us – the good, the bad and the ugly!


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Molly Wiltshire-Bridle

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