In recent years, researchers have recognized the possibility that more integrative learning environments may help university students to maximize their learning potentials within their courses (Graham 2006; Vaughn, 2007). Therefore post-secondary institutions have introduced a new pedagogical design where online and face-to-face learning is combined to provide a more effective learning environment (Graham, 2006; Osguthorpe & Graham, 2003; Vaughn, 2007). In order to best understand the essence of this newly introduced learning approach, we need to define face-to-face and online learning learning.
I have selected the the following definitions of face-to-face and online learning from Allen and Seaman (2010)’s report on the state of online learning in United States. According to Allen and Seaman (2010), face-to-face instruction consists of two categories. The first category is referred to as “traditional” where all course content is delivered in a face-to-face format and no technology is used at all. The second category is referred to as “web facilitated face-to-face format”, where web-based technology is used to deliver 1% to 29% of the course content such as syllabus and assignments (e.g., The Blackboard Learning System). With respect to online learning environments, Allen and Seaman (2010) defined online learning as a learning that delivers 80+% of its content online. The combination of face-to-face and online learning instructions would give birth to a learning environment that is currently known as blended learning environment.
In order to reflect the “essence” of blend learning, Graham (2006) proposed that blended learning could be best defined as the combination of online and face-to-face instructions. I really like this definition as it provides a clear description of blended learning. However, one of my colleagues argued that this definition is way too general and does not provide any details on the percentages of online and face-to-face portions in the blended setting. It seems like, Allen and Seaman felt the same and decided to create a more specific definition of blended learning. At first glance, i was very excite as i would have access to a more clear blue print of blended learning for my research studies. According to Allen and Seaman (2010) blended learning is defined as a type of learning that delivers 30 to 79% of its contents online. Although this definition is somewhat consistent with Graham’s (2006) definition noted above, it appears to be less restrictive and more generalizable than Graham’s (2006) definition of blended learning. I beleive, leanring and development consultants need to take into account both of the definitions when designing or evaluating blended learning in either university or corporate settings. In my next post, I will talk about the different categories of blended learning that are frequently used in educational and corporate settings.