Does hybrid learning hold the most promise?

by Grace

Hybrid learning, combining online and face-to-face instruction, would seem to hold the most promise in incorporating technology into higher education.  A recent study supports this promise.

Monitoring 605 college students taking the same introductory statistics course at six public universities—including the University at Albany—SUNYSUNY Institute of Technology—Utica/Rome, the University of Maryland—Baltimore CountyTowson University,  CUNY—Baruch College, and CUNY—City College—during fall 2011, researchers split the students into two groups. One group completed the course in a traditional format, while the second group completed an online component complemented with an hour of in-class instruction each week.

Students were asked to complete a series of tests before and after the course, and researchers found that “hybrid-format students did perform slightly better than traditional format students” on outcomes including final exam scores and overall course pass rates, according to the report.

Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities: Evidence from Randomized Trials (Ithaka S+R, May 22, 2012, William G. Bowen, Matthew M. Chingos, Kelly A. Lack & Thomas I. Nygren)

The better performance of students in the hybrid-format group was not statistically different and the study did not control for differences in teacher quality.  Still, it’s easy to imagine how the powerful combination of a strong teacher with a well-designed online component would deliver superior results with lower costs.

Meta-Analysis: Is Blended Learning Most Effective? (2009)

The United States Department of Education reported recently that it’s found some evidence to support the notion that blended learning is more effective than either face to face or online learning by themselves. Further, between online and face to face instruction, online is at least as good and may even have the advantage in terms of improving student achievement and potentially expanding the amount of time (and quality time) students spend learning.

Blended Learning Models Generating Lessons Learned (2012)

Since blended learning exploded onto the K-12 scene with promises of personalized and student-centered learning, it has proliferated into dozens of different models, with educators continually tweaking and changing those methods to find the perfect balance of face-to-face and online instruction to meet the needs of their students.

Interest in blended education remains high, spurred partly by research offering support for advocates’ claims that blended learning is more effective than either online or face-to-face instruction on its own.

But more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of the evolving blended learning models, including best practices and which models work best for which types of students . . .

Related:  Hybrid learning breaks down geographic barriers for Northeastern University (Cost of College)

5 Comments to “Does hybrid learning hold the most promise?”

  1. Agree with Bonnie. The priority has to be on increasing the overall quality of the course, not on ‘finding efficiencies.’


  2. No statistical significance and not controlling for teacher differences suggests that there is no strong evidence one way or the other. Hybrid learning is not any cheaper than face-to-face, so I’d want to see some stronger evidence before concluding it was a good thing.


  3. The jury’s still out on hybrid learning – no doubt about that. But it does look promising from my perspective as an outsider.

    I just find it hard to believe that applying technology to education, such as in hybrid instruction, does not save money or improve outcomes (or both). Offhand, I cannot think of any other field where this is the case.


  4. I also see many similarities between healthcare and education, and I was thinking of healthcare when I commented before. I’ve got to believe that researchers who believe that technology simply drives up healthcare costs without improving outcomes must be a very small minority.


  5. I’m not disputing that technology increases healthcare costs, but that it does NOT improve quality. Are all these researchers claiming that on balance, technology has NOT improved outcomes? I’ve not read about those claims.

    In another regard healthcare and technology might be dissimilar – I think there is widespread acknowledgement that technology has improved the quality of healthcare, but no such agreement in the field of education. And they both suffer the similar problem of humans failing to cooperate in living the optimum lifestyle needed for good outcomes.


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