November 28, 2023

The Benefits of Hybrid Learning: A Modern Approach to Education

IDC Report Blog Series: Part Three

The confines of traditional classrooms are a thing of the past. Consider this: educators and institutions all over the world are breaking boundaries with hybrid learning, a dynamic and adaptable approach to education. Furthermore, a recent global survey conducted by Anthology, involving over 2,700 students, unveiled a fascinating trend—more than 35% of students now desire a perfect blend of in-person and online learning. The future of education has never looked brighter.

As education transcends conventional boundaries, hybrid learning takes the lead in digital transformation. Come along with us on this journey through the ever-evolving educational landscape and discover the inventive methods educators from across the globe are utilizing to shape the future of learning worldwide.

What is Hybrid Learning?

Traditional classrooms are no longer the only places of learning. Educators and institutions worldwide are embracing hybrid-first learning as a flexible and dynamic approach to education.

Hybrid learning, also known as blended learning, is an educational approach that combines in-person and online components to create a flexible and adaptable learning experience. This approach identifies and caters to students' diverse learning styles, needs, and preferences by providing the best of both worlds—the benefits of face-to-face interactions and the flexibility of online resources.

While the IDC report titled "The Ongoing Evolution of Learning Management Systems" touches on the impact of hybrid and flexible learning on the development of learning management systems (LMS), it does not focus extensively on the core principles and benefits of hybrid learning itself. Instead, it highlights how evolving learning modalities are shaping the tools and technologies used in education. Hybrid learning addresses the unique needs of students in response to the demands of the digital age, offering a more personalized and accessible approach to education.

An Emerging Paradigm

Hybrid learning represents a transformative paradigm shift in education, drawing from the 2022 Educause Horizon Action Plan. This innovative approach combines traditional face-to-face instruction with the flexibility and scalability of online learning. It offers students diverse modes of engagement, catering to a variety of learning styles and preferences.

In this dynamic landscape, hybrid learning enhances education by strategically combining technology and pedagogical innovation. Instructors blend in-person and online elements for greater student engagement and academic success. Modular, remote course options empower learners to personalize their journey, while equity and accessibility are top priorities. Instructors, well-prepared through professional development, adeptly navigate this hybrid frontier, promoting effective teaching across modalities.

This hybrid learning model, guided by the insights of the Horizon Action Plan, is not merely a response to current challenges; it is a forward-looking approach that empowers institutions to shape the future of education.

Empowering Learning Diversity with Flexibility

Flexibility is a fundamental pillar of hybrid learning, endorsed by educational experts and institutions worldwide. It allows students to tailor their educational experience to their individual needs and preferences while also allowing them to choose how they engage in class activities conveniently from any location. Furthermore, the flexibility to incorporate online and offline activities can increase student engagement and allow for a more interactive learning experience than traditional lectures.

This adaptability extends its advantages to a diverse array of learners, such as adult learners, commuters, individuals with disabilities, caregives, and busy professionals, to name a few. By transcending geographical limitations, it renders education more inclusive and accessible to an even broader demographic.

Colleges and universities are grappling with students’ growing demand for flexibility as students increasingly prefer online and hybrid courses. As we have seen recently, in the instance of unforeseen events (such as pandemics), hybrid learning can also ensure educational continuity. It serves as a backup plan for traditional in-person learning and allows for a more seamless transition to remote learning when necessary. This accessibility, combined with affordability and convenience, is an asset. To meet this demand effectively, institutions must allocate resources for faculty development and technology to ensure high-quality experiences in both traditional and virtual classrooms.

Fostering Student Agency and Accountability

Encouraging students to take greater ownership of their educational journeys empowers learners to shape their learning experiences actively, resulting in a more personalized and self-directed approach to education, according to research discussed by Dr. Dinesh Chauhan in their LinkedIn article “Empowering Students Through Learner-Centered Design” (2023).

A fundamental principle of hybrid education is encouraging ownership of learning, which promotes creativity and inquiry. Effective time management is critical, as students are responsible for managing their schedules and allocating enough time for in-person and online activities. They also hone their goal setting and organizational skills. This self-discipline promotes active engagement, self-direction, and skills that are invaluable in navigating the complexities of the modern world.

As educators continue to foster student agency and encourage self-directed learning, students develop a heightened sense of responsibility for their learning outcomes. This sense of ownership empowers students to be more accountable for their own learning progress, resulting in a more invested and engaged approach to their studies.

What Personalized Learning Looks Like in Hybrid Education

Incorporating personalized learning into the hybrid educational model harkens back to the principles discussed in part one of our blog series, Responsive Institutions: The Key to Student Success in the Digital Age. In their annual review, Johnson and Johnson write that by tailoring educational experiences to individual learners' unique needs, interests, and progress, hybrid learning institutions set the stage for a more adaptive and student-centric approach to education. This alignment with personalized learning enhances student engagement and outcomes while also fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment among learners. It demonstrates the institution's commitment to responding to the evolving educational landscape and the diverse needs of its students by bridging the gap between traditional and modern learning modalities.

Personalized learning in a hybrid context includes strategies like leveraging adaptive learning platforms, which use data to deliver customized content and assessments based on individual student performance. Learning analytics enables educators to track progress and adjust instruction, creating a more responsive experience.

Digital portfolios and e-portfolios enable students to document their learning journey and set goals, promoting self-assessment and ownership of learning. It has been found that integrating social learning platforms and peer collaboration facilitates peer connections and collaborative projects.

By aligning with responsiveness principles and using technology and data, students receive tailored education, enhancing engagement and outcomes and bridging the gap between traditional and modern learning paradigms.

Hybrid Learning in Action

Teesside University in Middlesbrough, England is proactively adapting its educational approach to embrace hybrid learning, aligning with the changing education landscape worldwide. The university recognizes the significance of delivering high-quality education seamlessly, in-person or virtually. Teesside ensures that all taught modules have corresponding modules within Blackboard® Learn, providing a digital learning environment for students and instructors. Faculty members are encouraged to check their module enrollments, granting them access to the modules they teach or may need for their courses. The university emphasizes creating clear, accessible, and engaging learning resources. This includes using various media formats such as audio, video, and text-based instructions. Ensuring accessible resources are available to all learners, including those with disabilities, is a priority. Teesside University's commitment to enhancing hybrid learning experiences demonstrates its dedication to providing a flexible and accessible education, catering to the evolving needs of students in a digital age. These strategies and tools ensure that learning remains sustainable and impactful, regardless of disruptions or changes in teaching methods.

The University of South Africa (UNISA) is adapting to blended teaching and learning in higher education through holistic strategic planning. Informed by research conducted in 2020 and 2021, UNISA aims to ensure equitable access to resources, bolster human resources, and rethink cost drivers. They highlighted the need for new training programs for administrators and the value of networks for sharing teaching practices. UNISA's proactive approach underscores the significance of strategic planning, data-driven decisions, and ongoing staff development in adapting to the "new normal" in higher education.

The Road Ahead

As hybrid learning gains momentum worldwide, educators and institutions must continue to adapt to this evolving landscape. To ensure its success, there are several key considerations:

  1. Technology Integration: Robust and user-friendly platforms are essential for delivering online content and facilitating communication.
  2. Faculty Training: Educators must receive training and support to navigate hybrid teaching methods effectively.
  3. Assessment and Feedback: Developing fair and meaningful reviews in a hybrid environment is crucial.
  4. Accessibility: Efforts should ensure that hybrid learning is accessible to all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background or physical location.

In our blog series on the ever-evolving world of education and how the LMS can support institutions, we have explored the realms of artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and now, hybrid learning. These transformations in education are more than just trends; they are powerful forces shaping the future of learning. As we continue this series, it is worth reflecting on our first blog about being a responsive institution. Modern institutions use AI, AR, and hybrid learning to prepare learners for a future of continuous adaptation.

In our next and final installment, we will delve into lifelong learning, discussing how individuals and institutions adapt to the idea that learning does not stop at graduation but continues throughout one's life. Stay tuned for insights into this exciting educational frontier, where the pursuit of knowledge knows no bounds.

Justin Louder headshot

Justin Louder

Associate Vice President of Academic Innovation

Dr. Justin Louder serves as associate vice president for academic innovation at Anthology. He is the former associate vice provost of Texas Tech University’s Worldwide Learning. Over the last decade, he led TTU through a significant transformation from humble beginnings into a division with regional teaching sites around the state, over 100 different online and distance degree programs, more online or hybrid doctoral degrees than any school in the south, a division wide staff of almost 100, and growing fully online enrollments from 1,200 to over 4,000. He also served as a faculty member in the College of Education throughout his tenure at TTU. He holds a B.A. in communication and psychology from Angelo State University, an Ed.D. in instructional technology with a minor in higher education administration from Texas Tech University, and an M.P.A. in governmental administration from Wayland Baptist University.