Skip to the content

Read our COVID-19 procedures for in-person events. Learn More

Hybrid vs. Blended Learning: What's the Difference?

The two terms are often (incorrectly) used interchangeably. Though both instruction methods have instructor-led and online elements, hybrid learning and blended learning have substantially different benefits and result in unique student experiences.

What is Hybrid Learning?

Hybrid learning is the method of teaching remote and in-person students at the same time via virtual instruction solutions.

Hybrid learning, when compared to the traditional model, is largely self-directed and transforms the traditional teacher from “sage on the stage” to the much more effective “guide from the side.” Instructors now serve as coaches and mentors rather than wardens of the education process.

VIDEO: Hybrid Learning from the User and Speaker Perspectives

This unique training modality also differs from earlier versions of virtual instructor-led training, or vILT, in that the hybrid model fully incorporates the remote learners into the classroom—allowing them to interact with the instructor and other learners as though they were physically present.

Connected with dynamic, two-way audio and high-definition video, remote learners are not simply watching the live classroom. Combining the live classroom with virtual components creates an equal learning experience for both in-class and remote learners.

Learners benefit from the flexibility of remote learning as well as the guided learning experience of instructor-led training.

Benefits of Hybrid Learning

The hybrid modality provides significant benefits for learners, instructors and training organizations.

Studies show that hybrid learning is the most effective learning method. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education summarized research from more than a thousand studies measuring the effectiveness of online, hybrid, and in-person learning and found hybrid education to be the most effective form of learning.

While many have reservations about transitioning to an entirely remote learning model, hybrid models are viewed in a much more positive light. Research suggests that hybrid learning models have the potential for customization that can greatly benefit those who typically struggle with learning.

Learner Benefits

  • Increased interaction with the instructor
  • Greater engagement and involvement in the course
  • Higher quality peer interaction
  • Greater flexibility in course scheduling

Instructor Benefits

  • Better student engagement
  • More flexible scheduling
  • Ability to reach more learners
  • Interactive teaching environment

Training Organization Benefits

  • A cost-effective way to extend the reach of training
  • An improved learning experience for more effective training
  • Decreased cancellations
  • Decreased travel costs

What is Blended Learning?

Blended learning combines in-classroom instruction with asynchronous exercises and content that are consumed outside the classroom.

This method essentially:

  • Eliminates independent study activities from in-person classroom sessions
  • Moves reading, assessments, and media consumption outside the classroom
  • Enables students to complete those activities in the way that works best for them
  • Drives effectiveness of time spent together as a whole group

Since everyone learns differently—and at their own speed, some may need to spend more time on a given topic than their peers.

When independent study happens on the learner’s time, instructors can better take advantage of engagement-based teaching methods when the class is together.

These activities include discussions, polls, role playing, and group work. Studies show that instructor-led training combined with these hands-on learning methods are still far and away one of the most effective teaching tools when it comes to ensuring participants retain new knowledge and skills.

Studies show that an active learning approach like this:

  • Increases enthusiasm for learning in instructors and learners
  • Improves content knowledge, critical thinking and problem-solving abilities

Blended learning is being adopted by top university professors for its power to engage and inspire students to take ownership of the learning process.

Benefits of Blended Learning

The blended modality provides significant benefits for learners, instructors, and the organizations hosting training sessions.

Learner Benefits

  • Content can be consumed at the learner’s own pace
  • Less time in class allows for better scheduling flexibility
  • Less individual work in-person means higher quality peer-to-peer interaction
  • Greater flexibility in course scheduling

Instructor Benefits

  • More time spent engaging with students
  • Fewer class sessions allows for more flexible scheduling
  • Better student engagementwith an interactive teaching environment

Organization Benefits

  • Reduces training costs due to less in-person classroom sessions needed
  • Better learning outcomes due to more effective in-classroom experiences
  • Decreased cancellations and scheduling conflicts
  • Reduced travel and transportation costs for students, instructors, and resources

So, Blended or Hybrid Learning? Here’s the Difference

Hybrid and blended learning models are often confused with one another. Businesses often mistakenly use them interchangeably. There is, however, an important difference.

Blended learning happens entirely outside the classroom and focuses on the combination of offline and online instruction in order to allow participants to move at their own pace.

In a hybrid learning scenario, in-person and remote learners around the world work in tandem to contribute to the group dynamic.

Both concepts have been around for some time, but recent technological developments have made them more accessible and viable than ever.

Why Choose Online Learning?

As technology continues to modify the path, pace, time, and place in our lives, it also is driving the need for change within teaching and learning. Organizations that recognize this will benefit in many ways from adopting online learning.

The traditional model is obsolete. With constant access to unlimited information, the traditional model is becoming a thing of the past. Exam-based learning that requires knowledge retention and memorization has been rendered obsolete and replaced with learning that encourages selecting and applying the right information to identify problems and design solutions.

The new workforce will expect it. Group work via online learning has been gaining traction in education for some time. Millennials, often called digital natives, grew up on technology and will expect a relevant technologically charged structure - like the blended and hybrid models - for collaborating with one another.

Remote interaction levels the playing field. In physical classrooms, extroverted students tend to dominate class discussion, which can intimidate introverted students and limit their contributions. Remote interaction, whether verbal or written, can provide additional opportunities for introverted or ESL participants to contribute. Such contributions are becoming increasingly important in today’s workforce.

Make a Change in How We Learn

In a world where the only constant is change, the time has come to make a change in how we learn. Educational institutions and corporations alike must be willing to adapt and accept more effective methods of providing access to new information.