The term “blended learning” is being used with increased frequency in academic publications and conferences, as well as in industry trade magazines around the world. In 2003 the American Society for Training and Development identified blended learning as one of the top 10 emergent trends in the knowledge-delivery industry (Rooney, 2003). In higher education, some predict a dramatic increase in the number of hybrid (i.e., blended) courses will include as many as 80%- 90% of the range of higher-education courses (Young, 2002). Additionally, in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, the president of Pennsylvania State University, Graham Spanier, was quoted as saying that the convergence between online and residential instruction was “the single-greatest unrecognized trend in higher education today” (Young, 2002). This article provides an overview of blended learning environments (BLEs) with examples from both corporate training and higher-education contexts. It also identifies the most common benefits and challenges related to the use of blended learning environments from the research literature.
The use of the term “blended learning” has become a buzzword among educators and trainers in the last several years (Lamb, 2001). Prior to that, academicians generally referred to blended learning environments (BLEs) in higher education as “hybrid learning environments.” With the explosion in the use of the term blended learning in corporate training environments, the academic literature has increasingly followed suit, and it is common to see the terms used interchangeably (Voos, 2003). In this section of the article, we define blended learning and share some examples of blended learning environments in corporate training and higher education.
Terms and Definitions for Learning Environments
By nature, both the terms “hybrid” and “blended” imply a mixing or combining of something. It is that something that people do not always agree upon. Some understand blended learning to be a combination of different instructional methods (Singh & Reed, 2001; Thomson, 2002), while others define blended learning as a combination of different modalities or delivery media (Driscoll, 2002; Rossett, 2002). However, blended learning is most commonly considered to be the combination of instruction (both methods and delivery media) from two archetypal learning environments: a traditional face-to-face learning environment and a computer-mediated or e-learning environment (see Figure 1). The rapid pace of technological innovation has fueled the convergence of these two historically separate environments and facilitated the emergence of blended learning environments (Graham, 2006). In essence, blended learning environments combine face-to-face (F2F) instruction with computer-mediated (CM) instruction.
Blended learning environments combine face-to-face (F2F) and computer-mediated (CM) instruction
Key Terms in this Chapter
Hybrid Course: Another name for a blended course. Typically a course that replaces some F2F instructional time with computer-mediated activities.
Distributed Learning Environment: A learning environment where participants are not colocated and use computer-based technologies to access instruction and communicate with others.
Asynchronous Learning Network (ALN): Another name for online learning that emphasizes asynchronous interaction between participants.
Affordances: Features of an environment or artifact that “afford” or permit certain behaviors.
Blended Learning Environment: A learning environment that combines face-to-face and computer-mediated instruction.