In recent decades, higher education has been threatened by the rise of the Internet and the new educational models and delivery methods that have emerged from it.

That is why many universities today have recognized that more than a threat, the Internet and the rise of online education represent a great opportunity to create new delivery methods that adapt to the particular needs of each student and to the changing world in which we live.

Thus, a growing number of universities are adopting hybrid models that combine traditional, i.e. face-to-face, teaching with online instruction, thus creating flexible educational models in keeping with the times.

Blended learning, sometimes translated as hybrid, blended or blended learning, is a model of instruction that interweaves elements of classroom and online learning.

However, this proposal goes beyond simply using new technologies in education, it means taking advantage of the possibilities opened up by the Internet to give each student a more personalized experience according to their needs.

How does it work?

It is important to point out that when we speak of hybrid learning, we are not referring to a particular teaching methodology or pedagogical philosophy, but to the channels through which education is delivered; it is not surprising, then, that several models are possible. Among them, they stand out:

  • Station rotation – where students rotate in groups within the same classroom through different ‘stations’ at fixed times. In some of them they learn online, in other collaborative activities, or in class with a teacher.
  • Laboratory rotation – similar to the previous model only that online learning occurs in a computer lab conditioned for this specific purpose.
  • Individual rotation – in this case each student’s schedule is determined by the teacher or the algorithm of an application. The student does not have to rotate through all stations, only those required on her personalized route.
  • Inverted classroom – the student learns new concepts at home through readings, videos and exercises, and applies their knowledge by performing projects under the supervision of an instructor.
  • Flexible – Faculty provide support and instruction on a flexible, on-demand schedule as students move at their own pace through an online platform.
  • A la carte – Allows students to take a course with an online teacher in addition to their face-to-face academic load. This model is useful for institutions that for some reason cannot provide certain learning opportunities.
  • Enriched Virtual Model – An alternative to full-time school that allows your students to complete most of their work online, but requires them to complete a certain number of hours of face-to-face learning with their teacher. Unlike the inverted classroom, the frequency of these encounters does not need to be daily.

Who’s using it?

The University of Maryland opted to include hybrid learning options in ten of its courses in 2011 and has since increased its offerings. This decision was the product of the efforts of teachers and administrators who wanted to test the model as an alternative to face-to-face classes that had historically proven to be ineffective.2

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), ranked fifth in the world, has also adopted the hybrid model through MITx, its online learning platform. MITx adapts to the needs of the different classes offered by the institution.

For some, the platform is the main source of learning. For others, it allows combining face-to-face class with online learning. This online resource allows teachers to concentrate on discussion and critical content in the classroom.

Another of the world’s top universities, Imperial College London (ranked 8th in the world), started a pilot program last year where engineering students took online business courses while the rest of their classes were face-to-face. The aim of this pilot is to test with a small group of students to gradually move their entire educational offerings to this flexible hybrid model.

IE Business School, Spain, has found a way to implement effective solutions to make online classes an effective resource for both teachers and students. Its solution is the WoW Room (“Window on the World”), a 45-square-meter wall with 48 55-inch screens that supports the platform.

In this virtual classroom, the only one present in the “classroom” is the teacher (and not always, as sometimes the teacher can be replaced by a holographic image), while students follow the class from anywhere in the world.

Moreover, blended learning can go beyond a simple alternative to face-to-face or entirely online instruction, and open up new possibilities. A few years ago Tufts University started the hybrid initiative “connected classrooms” that allows its students to take courses with students and professors from other institutions around the world.3

In our country, the Tecnológico de Monterrey campus in Mexico City, in the face of the September 19 earthquake, has resorted to a flexible hybrid learning model. Under this model, an average of 1,300 videoconference sessions are held daily between teachers and students.

To achieve this, 90 teachers and 150 tutors, mostly volunteers, provide real-time support to these sessions. This effort has allowed high school and professional students to resume classes and finish the semester on time, without the need to attend campus in person.

This solution optimizes the time spent in classrooms, transfers, and schedules, in addition to guaranteeing the academic quality of the educational model.

Advantages of this model

Researchers at West Chester University in Pennsylvania conducted an experiment in which 150 university students were divided into three groups: the first (60 students) would receive hybrid instruction, the second (60 students) would have classes in person, while the third group (30 students) would also have the traditional classroom model but with fewer students.

The study reported that 64% of the students felt more involved with the course contents in the hybrid format. Ninety percent reported that they liked the convenience of the hybrid model. Eighty-eight percent liked working independently and at their own pace.

While 68% felt more comfortable expressing their ideas and 65% felt that the combined activities promoted a sense of community that allowed for better interaction among their classmates.

5 In addition, the hybrid instruction group of 60 college students scored slightly higher on average (47.46 out of 60 points) than the face-to-face group of 60 students (44.34) and a smaller face-to-face group of 30 students (47.40). This indicates that the hybrid learning model is able to provide more personalized instruction to a larger number of students.

In conclusion, blended learning is a mode of instruction that is gaining more and more strength and global presence, not only in basic education institutions, but also at the university level. Its key advantage, beyond its convenience and flexibility, is the possibility of providing students with an education tailored to their needs and interests.