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What Is Hybrid Learning?

What is hybrid learning? A good working definition is that hybrid learning is synchronous learning that teaches both in-person and online learners simultaneously. Therefore, it is part of blended learning but a specific example of how EdTech is used in lessons. However, there are a surprising number of competing definitions even from very reputable sources. In the end, it’s about finding a workable definition that makes teaching and learning more flexible in the future.

Read on for more on hybrid learning and its role in the future of education. Or learn more about ViewSonic’s purpose-built hybrid learning solution.

What is hybrid learning exactly? As a new term in education, it should come as no surprise that there is no clear definition. The term is thrown around a lot, however, so clearly it is significant to teachers and learners in an evolving field. But there are still so many unanswered questions.

Is hybrid learning blended learning? If yes, why use both terms? If no, how are they different? And how many competing definitions of hybrid learning are there? It’s still so new that even there is very little consensus even among experts.

After much research and deliberation, however, we have found a workable definition for hybrid learning and how it is distinct from blended learning. But first…

What Is Blended Learning?

Blended learning is any combination of traditional analog education with modern digital technologies. At its broadest, blended learning describes the introduction of computer labs, interactive whiteboards, and educational software to the learning process. Mostly, however, blended learning is used to refer to the more recent practice of including online self-study to supplement in-class lessons.

Though hybrid learning is often treated as a synonym for blended learning, this is not the case at all.

What Is Hybrid Learning? - Definition

What Is Hybrid Learning?

Hybrid learning implements synchronous lessons taught simultaneously in-person and online. It is a type of blended learning that focuses more on bridging the physical classroom and virtual learning spaces closer together into a more complete education. Put another way, hybrid learning is a form of synchronous learning that happens both physically and remotely.

However, an exact definition of hybrid learning still varies based on the source.

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Other Definitions of Hybrid Learning

Since hybrid learning is a relatively new term, there is still very little consensus when we ask “What is hybrid learning?” As such, it can be very confusing locking down what individuals or institutions mean with the term.

So, while we have defined what hybrid learning is to ViewSonic, here are a few other interpretations in common use by reputable sources.

In-Person and Online

One common phrase that comes up is that hybrid learning “overlaps” with blended learning. This means that while they may share many similarities, they are still two distinct methodologies (as opposed to hybrid learning being under the blended learning umbrella).

The main difference between blended and hybrid learning, in this case, is that hybrid learning focuses on both in-person and online learning equally, while blended learning includes any unbalanced mix of the two.

A Pedagogy

Another way that hybrid learning is defined – especially in relation to blended learning – is that it is a pedagogy or teaching strategy more than a set of processes or procedures. As such, it represents an ideology that provides the scaffolding for a wide variety of teaching strategies that fall under the umbrella of blended learning.


On a Spectrum

Some sources see hybrid learning as a point along a spectrum of technological adoption. The spectrum that this definition follows usually follows these main points:

  • Face-to-face only lessons that only rely on traditional teaching methods. These methods may incorporate some technology, but it will be primarily devices installed in a physical classroom.
  • Blended learning is a model that uses online learning to supplement in-class teaching, but it still focuses primarily on teachers and students being physically present for the majority of the teaching time.
  • Hybrid learning describes an educational model in which students spend at least half of their time learning online and the rest of their time learning in physical classrooms (according to this interpretation).
  • Online only is just what it sounds like: a course that is entirely online.

Hybrid Learning as a Synonym

To matters even more confusing, many reputable organizations ranging from the Online Learning Consortium to the United States Department of Education treat blended learning and hybrid learning as the same thing.

Blended Learning vs Hybrid Learning

How Is Hybrid Learning Different from Blended Learning?

With all the confusion over the definition of hybrid learning and its relationship to blended learning, it’s important to establish how they are unique. And while some experts view them as synonymous or equivalent in other ways, our understanding is a matter of scope.

Blended learning encompasses all education that integrates digital technologies, especially web-based learning tools. Hybrid learning refers specifically to synchronous lessons that are taught live and remotely at the same time.

This means that hybrid learning is a part of blended learning as an over-arching topic that also includes methodologies like flipped classrooms and SCALE-UP. In other words, all hybrid learning is blended learning, but not all blended learning is hybrid learning.

Why Is Hybrid Learning Important?

Why Is Hybrid Learning Important?

Hybrid learning as we mean it – synchronous learning both live and online simultaneously – will be part of the emerging landscape of education. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, educators have realized that a certain amount of flexibility is required both during the current situation and onward into the future.

While in-person teaching will remain an essential part of education for the foreseeable future, we now see the need to open up multiple channels to respond to not just extreme conditions like a global disaster but the day-to-day interruptions of effective education. Hybrid teaching not only makes learning more accessible to the differently-abled, but it also allows educators to reach remote areas, helps students stay connected during long absences, and familiarizes both educators and learners with the latest communication technologies.

Final Thoughts

Hybrid learning will be part of a holistic education approach as EdTech and educational best practices continue to grow and evolve. While hybrid learning – and more broadly blended learning – have been emergency measures in the past, they are likely to become mainstays of teaching and learning in the years to come.

However, given how recently hybrid learning has burst onto the scene, it is understandably still difficult to pin down exactly what it means. ViewSonic hopes to use its role as an EdTech leader to help guide the conversation and make hybrid learning more clearly defined: synchronous education taught in-person and online simultaneously.

But we are also part of the larger whole of learners, educators, and institutions and are happy just to contribute to the growth of new and exciting teaching methods under whatever name they are ultimately called.

Find out more about myViewBoard Classroom as a hybrid learning solution here. Or if you still have unanswered questions, learn more about distance learning.

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