Hybrid versus Blended Learning: What’s the Difference

Most of us have acquired some form of formal education and experienced the classroom environment, one way or the other. Ever wondered if the learning industry transformed over the past decade? Back in the day, learning was more or less the same in every educational institute in terms of the mode in which information was dispersed. But now, we have seen radical changes, and the concepts of eLearning, hybrid learning, and blended learning have emerged, opening a new gateway to education.

eLearning is growing fastly and enabling learning through new channels worldwide. With the eLearning industry grown by 900% since 2000, the future of education seems to lie in educational technology with a paradigm shift towards new forms of learning such as hybrid and blended learning. The global ed-tech expenditure is projected to grow from $152 Billion in 2018 to $342 Billion in 2025.

Hybrid Learning

What is Hybrid Learning?

Hybrid learning is a method of learning in which learners can attend the class both virtually and in-person simultaneously. It is a flexible form of learning in which students are not restricted from attending classes physically. This form of learning allows learners to engage with the course resources outside the classroom at any time at their convenience. Instructors teach both types of learners at the same time using tools such as video conferencing.

In a hybrid learning model, learning takes place both on campus and remotely at the same time. Course material and online support are available at all times during and after the class. This learning model got popular and successful during the COVID-19 pandemic which led to a global lockdown and travel restrictions and a need to improve and implement school security systemspreventing students from attending on-campus classes and employees from going to their offices.

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To explain it further, here is an example of 2 students, Sam and Marry, who are enrolled in a management class. They have to attend a class at 2:00 PM. Sam attends the class in person, while Marry prefers to attend the class virtually from her home by logging into the institute’s learning management system application/portal. The course lecture and reading material are made available online on the university’s LMS that all students can access, making it easier for Sam and Marry to attend the same lecture in the manner they prefer.

Blended Learning

What is Blended Learning?

On the other hand, blended learning is quite a common mode of learning in most top universities. As the name suggests, blended learning is a blend of physical classroom learning with online course materials dispersed through a learning management system (LMS). The online material supplements students’ learning experience through modern eLearning features and the latest information about the topic. 

Let’s use the example of Sam and Marry again to understand what blended learning is. In this case, Sam and Marry do not have an option to attend the class virtually. Both students are supposed to attend the class in person but can access the lectures and material online later after the class for revision and research.

Hybrid versus Blended Learning: What is the Difference?

The fundamental difference between hybrid and blended learning is the relationship between classroom learning and online learning. In blended learning, online learning supplements in-person learning in the classroom, however, in hybrid learning, online learning is an alternative to classroom learning. The following Venn diagram illustrates the difference as discussed above:

Blended and Hybrid Learning

The option to attend the class from home enables hybrid learning. To understand the differences further, let’s explore the learning models of hybrid and blended learning.

In a hybrid learning model, learning takes place both on campus and remotely at the same time. Course material and online support are available at all times during and after the class. This learning model got popular and successful during the COVID-19 pandemic which led to a global lockdown and travel restrictions, preventing students from attending on-campus classes and employees from going to their offices.

On the other hand, the blended learning model involves students learning in the classroom while taking advantage of technology and online material to enhance learning further. It enables personalized learning and provides opportunities for constructivist thinking, research, and revision. Blended learning was in use even before the pandemic and has gained even more popularity in the past few years in transforming the learning environment in the workplace and educational institutes. It promotes deeper learning, reduces stress, and increases student satisfaction.

Benefits of Hybrid and Blended Learning

The benefits of hybrid and blended learning are pretty similar, but there are some mutually exclusive benefits for each of them. Let’s discuss the common benefits of hybrid and blended learning first.

  1. Access to online course material and additional information at all times
  2. Reduced educational costs as the course material is available online, eliminating textbooks and notebooks’ cost.
  3. Efficient grading tools available on the learning management system 
  4. Thorough metrics allow instructors to assess the performance and identify the weaknesses of the students

Having said that, let’s talk about the benefits exclusive to hybrid learning:

  1. Remote access to the lecture eliminates geographical boundaries; thus, a wide audience can pick the course.
  2. Boost students’ productivity by enabling students to get an education in their preferred mode of learning
  3. Saves time and energy since students are not bound to the class in person

Finally, let’s explore the unique benefits of blended learning:

  • Increased personalized attention is provided to a student in person
  • More interaction between the students leads to an exchange of knowledge and experiences
  • Equal opportunities for all students as the entire strength of the classroom gets the same attention

Challenges of Hybrid and Blended Learning

On the contrary, there are some challenges involved in the hybrid and blended mode of learning. The challenges are listed below:

Blended Learning

  • Increasing use of technology and access to the Internet may raise plagiarism and credibility issues
  • Work overburden on instructors as it is challenging to design a syllabus that has the perfect combination of face-to-face and online learning. 

Hybrid Learning

  • Collaborative assignments can become unfair when some groups are working together remotely while some are working in the classroom
  • Remote learners can face internet connectivity issues and technical difficulties 
  • Keeping learners engaged, especially online ones, throughout the course, can be difficult

Future of Hybrid and Blended Learning?

At present, both learning approaches are being used in many top institutes and universities. Soon all educational institutions and even corporations will be adopting either of the two learning models based on their benefits and due to the new way of learning and teaching since the outbreak of COVID-19. While there are certain disadvantages and challenges of both approaches, there is work being done to mitigate them and leverage the use of technology to make education accessible to all in the future.

Blended learning would be a more widely accepted approach in the near future as the lockdown is easing up, but in the longer run, hybrid learning is the way to go as remote learning and virtual classrooms are a much more convenient, cost-effective, and time-saving approach.

The way forward?

Edly believes that both learning approaches are effective in their way based on the demographics and preferences of the learners. It is important to constantly improve the course content and resource material using any of the approaches. Edly provides a complete learning management system tailored to the institution’s needs, providing tools to enable hybrid and blended learning. 


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