Originally Posted: January 15, 2011
Perhaps contrary to what some may believe, distance learning has actually been around for over a century. “‘Distance education’ has been in existence since the state of New York authorized degrees offered through ‘home study’ in 1883” (Tandy & Meacham, 2009, p. 314). The differences between 1883 and 2011 are the available delivery methods.
One modern adaption is the hybrid/blended course. By nature, a hybrid course blends aspects of traditional onsite education with aspects of distance learning; in modern times this is, usually, accomplished through technology (El Mansour & Mupinga, 2007). The study, “Students’ Positive and Negative Experiences in Hybrid and Online Classes”, conducted by El Mansour and Mupinga provides credence to the cliché that you cannot satisfy all of the people all of the time. They assert that no one teaching and/or delivery method is ideal for everyone. Some of the feedback recorded by El Mansour and Mupinga was that students liked the immediate feedback and/or live sharing of ideas with their instructors and/or classmates during the face-to-face portion of their hybrid class(es). They also liked the flexibility of being able to attend to classwork from almost anywhere with access to the internet, and still being able to maintain full time employment. Some of the negative feedback included disruptions to students’ social and professional lives in order to attend scheduled onsite meetings, and delays in getting feedback from instructor(s) and/or fellow classmates during the online portion(s).
Horton (2006) provides different levels of blending to consider when deciding to what degree of blending a course should be developed. At a minimum, course designers should consider Horton’s “Level 2: Strategic Blending” when developing a hybrid course. This level of blending would be driven by the actual subject matter and course goals when deciding how to combine classroom and web-based evolutions.
Blended learning provides the opportunity to capitalize on the pros of both onsite and online learning while, simultaneously, creating the potential pit-falls of the negative things associated with each kind of training environment. Hybrid courses truly are akin to a double-edged sword.
One other aspect to take into consideration when discussing the pros/cons between onsite, online, and/or hybrid courses, is that of access for those with disabilities.
Tandy and Meacham (2009) provide several examples that support the idea that the sword cuts in both directions. While onsite courses may be difficult for people with physical disabilities, they provide opportunities for people with other disabilities such as low-vision or blindness. The opposite side of the sword is that online courses provide convenience for those people with physical disabilities. However, developing online courses that may be utilized by people that have low-vision or blindness presents some technical and/or financial challenges for the course developers.
Ultimately the quality and success of hybrid course delivery methods will be about the same as regular classes. There will be the champions of hybrid developed courses, there will be the inevitable antagonists, and there will be those that remain indifferent. In the same manner that not everyone enjoys the same kinds of music, movies, or sporting events, not everyone will have the same experience(s) when participating in a traditional onsite course, completely online course, or a hybrid course. Whether or not to recommend hybrid courses would depend on the potential students’ personal preference(s), comfort with technology requirements, and personal goals such as the need for immediate feedback, flexibility to limit social/professional interruptions, etc.
El Mansour, B., & Mupinga, D. M. (2007). Students’ positive and negative experiences in hybrid and online classes. College Student Journal, 41(1), 242-248. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.nu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?
Horton, W. (2006). E-Learning by design. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.
Tandy, C., & Meacham, M. (2009). Removing the barriers for students with disabilities: Accessible online and web-enhanced courses. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 29(3), 313-328. doi:10.1080/08841230903022118