Blended learning

This post is part of an effort to explore how different online learning methods affect knowledge retention among students.

Studies show that blended learning courses, a.k.a hybrid courses, are more effective than simple class-only courses.

Blended learning courses combine face-to-face learning and class time with a body of digital learning materials and resources to which students have free access.

Although the digital materials may be structured according to each week’s class and assignments, they are available to students throughout the course. They may be used for pre-class preparation, catching up on missed classes, practicing skills, checking facts, consolidating knowledge, looking ahead and revising for exams.

Case study of blended learning

A study involving chemistry students at Berks College in Pennsylvania State University showed a dramatic increase in the pass rate for students of a hybrid course as opposed to a traditional class-based course. The key takeaways from their paper are:

  • “Experience has shown that well-designed hybrid courses enhance student learning and increase student retention, even in large introductory science classes.
  • Blended learning class guides present digital content in an instructor-guided and consistent format within a course management system.
  • Digital learning materials embedded in blended learning guides — interactive multimedia tutorials, podcasts, videos, and simulations — can further engage students, influencing time on task in their learning and promoting their success.
  • Use of blended learning class guides in an introductory chemistry course at the Pennsylvania State University’s Berks College altered the traditional lecture to a hybrid format and approximately doubled the pass rate for the course.”

Blended learning vs online learning

Studies specifically comparing blended learning with purely online learning are numerous but inconclusive, with most showing no significant difference between the two.

For a discussion, see Means, B, Toyama, Y, Murphy,  R, Bakia, M and Jones, K (2009). Evaluation of Evidence-based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies. U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.  (PDF download). See in particular p38 “Blended Compared With Online Learning.”


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