Different Learning Environments

As we all know, teaching and learning happens in a multitude of ways.  There are three main categories however, that help us understand education in today’s context.  Traditional, Hybrid (web-enhanced), Online are different modalities used in educational settings.  Understanding these, teachers and other educators including those in supportive roles, can better plan and implement instructional content and strategies.

image via chronicle.com

In traditional set-ups, the students and teacher are together in the same space for all of their required time.  Everything is done face-to-face and activities and assessments are completed in the classroom (with the exception of homework).  Because there tends to be ample time spent in this setting, teaching often regresses to a method known as direct instruction through the form of lectures (Bates & Watson, 2008).  While many educational experts agree that this form of teaching isn’t optimal since learning is knowledge that is merely transmitted and not discovered, it often happens due to comfort and time constraints.  Many traditional classrooms though, are working toward more engaging modes and the “teach to learn” philosophy is taking off with the accompanying research.

In hybrid classrooms, students and the teacher (or often, the team of teachers) meet regularly and behave similarly to traditional classrooms with much of the learning taking place in a specified time and place and a high level of interaction.  The difference is that technology, specifically additional activities, tests, self-checks, and social/group projects are practiced with online web help.  That is, the online learning environment is supplemental to learning.  There is less DI and a higher focus on collaborative and discovery based learning, with both the student and the teacher working together to learn.  It is important to note that hybrid courses work best when technology isn’t solely used as a replacement for mundane activities just for the purpose of using precious in-class time for unappreciated lectures-the same goes for complete online courses-more on that below (Doering & Veletsianos, 2008).

In online learning, the students and teacher never meet in person nor have a meeting time or place.  The responsibility of learning falls solely on the student.  While it may seem that online learning then is substandard-after all, when do they hear a lecture or when were they taught?-remembering that lectures and most forms of DI are undesirable, it makes sense that, given a well-prepared teacher and well-planned course, online learning can be equally engaging and effective.  It is crucial that online learning is different in its execution, yet still utilizes best practices such as support that is a given in traditional and hybrid courses, ongoing communication, and collaborative, problem-based and inquiry-guided learning (Crawford, Smith, & Smith, 2008).  Using current technology to do more that simply email and create PowerPoints is what engages students and allows for optimal learning.

I think that anytime collaboration is at the forefront, learning takes place and students begin to think critically, so I would say that problem-based and inquiry-led learning can and should be used in all three types of classrooms.  Of course, implementing and assessing would look different in each setting.

I like the idea of games and humor in the classroom in traditional set-ups as it fosters motivation and creativity and games often lead to critical thinking skills, especially on those days where DI is somewhat necessary, while team-based and case studies are great to use in hybrids because students and teachers can learn the important ideas, facts, etc, in the classroom and then work on the continued project through use of the web.  For complete web-based, discussion based learning via social media is helpful since our social/digital footprint is very strong and for the most part, a great representation of who we are which is extremely important when you can’t meet face-to-face.

One of my projects that can be used for students who are in a traditional setting or online, or even in my personal context at home, is an activity called a WebQuest. I am excited to see that it fosters critical thinking, discovery and active construction of knowledge, and most of all is fun.  It is very easy to tailor this activity to each setting whether by changing the lesson, changing the way it is implemented, or by it being added to the classroom versus it being the lesson/class/course in and of itself-it could survive as in an online setting.  I think this shows that the way we learn then, isn’t all that dependent on where per se, if the strategies used are sound and evidence-based.


Do you think that online education is “less” than traditional schools? Do you feel a degree or certification from web-based institutions are worthy of recognition?

What about hybrid based homeschool? Check this link for insight:  https://arcs-ca.schoolloop.com/homeschool



Bates, C. & Watson, M (2008).  Relearning teaching techniques to be effective in hybrid and online courses.  Journal of American Academy of Business.  13 (1),  38-44.

Crawford, C., Smith, R. & Smith, M.  (2008).  Course student satisfaction results:  differentiation between face-to-face, hybrid, and online learning environments.  Texas A & M University.  Retrieved from blacboard:  https://post.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/pid-1870578-dt-content-rid-19160657_1/courses/EDU520.901238026230/Documents/Course%20Student%20Satisfaction%20Results_Differentiation%20Between%20Face-to-Face%2C%20Hybrid%2C%20and%20Online%20Learning%20Environments.pdf

Doering, A. & Veletsianos, G. (2008).  Hybrid online education:  identifying integration models using adventure learning.  Journal of Research on Technology in Education.  41(1), 23-41.


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