Even though the term blended learning is frequently used, there is ambiguity about what it actually means (Oliver and Trigwell 2005). While some researchers have discussed the problems with such ambiguity of definitions (Oliver and Trigwell 2005) others have raised such ambiguity and the fact that it means different things to different people, as the untapped potential of blended learning (Driscoll 2002). Using an inclusive conceptualization, blended learning can be labeled as all types of education that combine some aspect of face-to-face and computer-mediated instruction (Hrastinski 2019).
Some practitioners and researchers, talk about traditional face-to-face teaching and computer mediated teaching as two archetypal learning environments. There is a reason for that. Traditionally, these two environments have addressed the needs of different audiences through the use of different interaction methods. For instance, traditional learning has offered high fidelity environment with person-to-person interaction in a live synchronous surrounding while computer-mediated learning, such as distance learning have offered low fidelity with learning-materials interactions that typically occurred in an asynchronous environment (Graham 2006). This is mainly due to what have been technically possible and technology that have been available for consumers. However, due to technological innovation and digital developments these two separated archetypes of learning environments have got closer and closer and it can be argued that they not only overlap, but that during the pandemic the computer mediated teaching gained the upper hand. With the technology of today, communication technologies now allow us to have synchronous distributed interactions that occur in real-time with close to the same levels of fidelity as in traditional environments (Graham 2006) and video call platforms such as teams and zoom facilitate online human interactions.
So today, when the different dimensions of interaction in traditional teaching and online teaching are getting closer and closer to each other, the concept of blended learning and the use of such is not paradigmatically challenging. Rather, very broadly conceptualized, all types of education today can be described as blended learning. However, in order to be able to use different conceptualizations of blended learning to develop our learning environments, it is important to recognize the various types. In a review, Hrastinski (2019) raise five various conceptualizations of blended learning where each of the conceptualizations have different focus. For instance, (1) digital classroom conceptualization focus on digital tools used in the classroom, (2) the synchronous conceptualization focus on including distance students into the face- to face interaction through digital technology, (3) the quantity conceptualization focus on how many percentage of the course is given online and how much in a traditional face-to face manner, (4) the quality conceptualization focus on thoughtfully integrating benefits of face-to-face and online learning to improve quality, (5) and finally, the inclusive conceptualization that very broadly include all types of education that include a combination of face-to-face and computer-mediated learning.
So should we just pick one conceptualizations and get started? Moskal et al. (2013) argue that for an institution to succeed in blended learning we must have a sense of what goals and outcomes we are aiming for. Is the focus to increase teacher efficiency and decreasing resources? Or is it the pedagogy and learner centric approach that is ion focus and should be improved? Or maybe is it to be able to offer students flexibility and convenience? Moskal et al. (2013) argue that a successful blended learning program requires alignment in all of these questions. There is no “one best model” for blended learning but most institutions can reach success with any concept, as long as there is a reliable, robust infrastructure for support and planning (Moskal et al. 2013).
Driscoll, M. (2002). Blended learning: Let’s get beyond the hype. e- Learning, 1(4), 1–4.
Graham, C. R. (2006). Blended learning systems. The handbook of blended learning: Global perspectives, local designs, 1, 3-21.
Hrastinski, S. (2019). What do we mean by blended learning?. TechTrends, 63(5), 564-569.
Moskal, P., Dziuban, C., & Hartman, J. (2013). Blended learning: A dangerous idea?. The Internet and Higher Education, 18, 15-23.
Oliver, M., & Trigwell, K. (2005). Can ‘blended learning’ be redeemed? E-learning and Digital Media, 2(1), 17–26.