Blended Learning vs. Online Learning

Blended Learning 

To learn more about how and why blended learning works, watch this video (2:09 mins) with University of Lethbridge professors discussing blended learning. 

What is Blended Learning?

In its simplest form, blended learning is the thoughtful combination of face-to-face and online learning experiences (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008). Blended learning is based on social constructivist learning theory where students individually engage in critical reflection to make sense of their experiences and collaboratively construct knowledge through sustained critical dialogue (Swan, Garrison, & Richardson, 2009). The distinct challenge is determining the right balance of face to face and online activities (University of Ottawa, Teaching and Learning Support Services, n.d.).


High-quality blended learning is personalized and mastery-based; it is embedded with high expectations and encourages student ownership (Khan Academy, 2019).


“Designing, developing and implementing a blended course is an iterative process where evaluation (self-reflection, formal and information feedback from stakeholders, etc.) continually drives the redesign and redevelopment of course components for subsequent implementations” (University of Alberta (U of A), Centre for Teaching and Learning, 2019, n.p.)


What Blended Learning Is Not!

Blended learning is not simply adding an online component to a face-to-face course. Technology in a course should be used wisely – to facilitate student learning. Technology should not be used just to show off technology. Excellent opportunities exist for teachers to make learning interactive, dynamic, and fun when used properly. The technology aspect of a lesson should be like a good baseball umpire – it (like the umpire) is good if it (he) goes unnoticed” (U of A, Blended Learning Handbook, n.d.).

“Simply incorporating technology into a course does not necessarily improve interpersonal connections or student learning outcomes” (Community College Research Center (CCRC), Columbia University, p. 3).


Why Implement Online/Blended Learning Design?

“…An online course, or a course enhanced with online resources and communication tools, will add educational value to any face-to-face course by making resources available to learners and by providing opportunities to deepen learning through dialogue and sharing” (U of A, Blended Learning Handbook, n.d.).


What Does Blended Learning Look Like in the Classroom and Online?

In a flipped class students read texts, watch supplemental videos, or solve additional problems outside of class and then engage in active learning opportunities in the classroom related to the same topic and/or context, such as “discussions, simulations role-plays, and problem solving activities” (U of A Centre for Teaching and Learning, What is Blended Learning?, 2019, n.p., & Flipped Learning Network, 2014).


In web-enhanced courses, students attend the face to face session of their course at the scheduled time and are then assigned additional online activities to complete at home. The rationale behind assigning additional online activities is to promote greater student engagement with course content. “Some examples of these activities might include watching videos, participating in online discussions, doing online quizzes, or completing online simulations and labs” (U of A Centre for Teaching and Learning, Blended Learning, 2019, n.p.).


“In flexible labs, standard scheduled labs are eliminated, and students may instead go to a learning commons area where they can receive support and guidance for their lab activities if they need it” (U of A Centre for Teaching and Learning, Blended Learning, 2019, n.p.).


Combined Modes involves “courses combining different types of blended learning. For example, students may attend a flipped classroom while also participating in flexible labs” (U of A Centre for Teaching and Learning, Blended Learning, 2019, n.p.).


Online Learning

What is online learning?

Online Learning is referred to by numerous names such as E-learning, Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), Mobile Learning, Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and Blended Learning; it can take on many forms and be delivered through various platforms (Educause, n.d.). Online learning by definition “is any form of learning conducted partly or wholly over the Internet” (Bates, 2015, n.p.). For a mutual understanding of what Online Learning is here at the U of L, it a course that is delivered completely online. Therefore, students can learn at any time and from anywhere.

How does it differ from blended learning?

Online Learning is delivered fully online while blended learning is delivered through a combination of face-to-face and online components.

Blended or Online?

Depending on how you choose to deliver your academic course, the resources, guidelines and templates (resource page) here within will help you along the way.



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