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Hybrid Learning: Is it Better than Online or In-Person?

young woman studies in a hybrid learning environment

The increased availability of the internet, video cameras, and new digital technologies have revolutionized online learning. Now more than ever, universities across the country are leaning into remote education and online college programs. The ability to attend college remotely is a great thing for students who can’t participate in class in person for one reason or another. However, not all online college programs are completely asynchronous or detached from a physical class schedule. Some online programs follow a hybrid learning system. Through hybrid learning, online students participate in class and learn class materials synchronously with in-person students.

Not sure what hybrid learning is or how it works? This detailed guide will break down what it is and its significant benefits. By the end, you’ll know whether a hybrid learning college class is suitable for you.

Hybrid Learning Explained

Hybrid learning is a unique style of college education that blends in-person teaching with online learning opportunities. It is distinct from blended learning, although the two forms of college education have some similarities.

In a nutshell, hybrid learning means:

  • The professor teaches a college class in a standard classroom environment.
  • Some of the class’s students attend in-person and physically receive learning materials in the classroom.
  • Some of the class’s students attend remotely. They instead receive digital materials either before class or during the class session.
  • The teacher educates both groups of students simultaneously during posted class times.

In this way, one professor can educate both groups of students simultaneously. Remote students and in-person students learn the same materials since they view the same lectures. Furthermore, hybrid learning allows students to ask questions directly of their peers or professors. It truly blends remote and in-person learning in the most seamless way possible.

How Hybrid Learning Works

Still not sure how exactly hybrid learning works? Here’s a breakdown of how a hybrid learning class session works at most universities.

Attend Class with In-Person Students

All remote students log into student portals and view live-streamed footage of the classroom environment as in-person students file into the class. In this way, the remote students attend class simultaneously with in-person students. The only difference is that they do so in front of their computers from home or somewhere else.

The class professor has a live streaming camera set up in the front or back of the class. The camera then transmits video footage to the remote students. The camera typically focuses on the whiteboard or chalkboard and the professor. For most hybrid courses, the camera is not moved or adjusted.

Remote students can disengage from the class at any time. If a remote student can’t attend a specific class, their professor may record the classroom session. They can then post the recording on the remote students’ online learning portal. After the fact, those absent students can see the same lecture that the in-person students did.

Receive the Same Work and Instruction

No matter whether they are remote or in-person, all students receive the same work and instructions in a hybrid learning environment. The professor goes through the same lecture for both groups. All students have the opportunity to ask questions. For example, a professor may directly ask any remote students if they have questions or need to pause from time to time.

Both the remote and in-person students may also complete tests or assignments at the same time. In-person students hand in their projects or work to the professor at the front of the class. Remote students may deliver their work remotely or email it to the professor during or after class.

Again, if remote students cannot attend a hybrid class, they can sometimes turn in work later. Whether this is allowed depends on the course and the professor’s rules.

Blended Synchronous and Asynchronous Work

In addition, hybrid classes make full use of asynchronous work in addition to synchronous work. For example, some remote students may have the opportunity to watch lectures, then turn in worksheets or tests after in-person students. It all depends on the rules or policies for the specific class.

Both in-person and remote students may be asked to perform asynchronous homework. This homework can be done on the student’s schedule but must be delivered by a set date.

Throughout a class’s duration, remote and in-person students alike can ask questions of the professor. All students in the college class can benefit from direct professor access. Unlike completely asynchronous online learning, online students don’t have to feel that they get fewer learning opportunities than in-person students.

Types of Degrees and Certificates Are Available Through Hybrid Learning

The types of programs available depend on how the college in question utilizes hybrid learning. Only certain classes are available through hybrid learning setups for some degree programs. For others, the entire program is available through hybrid learning. Hybrid learning college programs are typically available at universities with extensive remote learning departments.

Hybrid learning enables students to earn all kinds of degrees and certificates. These include but are not limited to:

  • Associate degrees
  • Bachelor’s degrees
  • Graduate-level degrees, including master’s degrees and doctoral degrees
  • Graduate certificates, which are available between the bachelor’s and master’s levels
  • Postsecondary certificates, which include college certificates at all levels of learning

Because hybrid learning programs have students learn the same materials as in-person students, there’s no lack of accreditation or academic rigor. Online students receive the same lectures and class materials as their in-person counterparts.

For many students, hybrid learning combines the best of both worlds. It combines many conveniences associated with remote learning with the quality education and teacher access for which in-person learning is known.

Pros and Cons of Hybrid Learning

Benefits of Hybrid Learning

Hybrid learning provides many significant benefits to students who take these classes or programs. Let’s break down these advantages one by one.

  • Easier Access to Education

For one, hybrid learning allows students to have easier access to their education. Hybrid learning programs let students who aren’t geographically close to a given college still attend that school in some form. Remote learning provides the same benefit.

However, hybrid learning offers more of the “college experience” to remote students. For many students, there are concrete advantages to “sitting” in class with other students compared to visiting an online portal a few times per week.

This more accessible access to education is an excellent benefit for America overall. As the access to quality college options increases, more people than ever before will be able to pursue their dreams or career ambitions.

Hybrid learning is beneficial because students who can’t move to a college or pay for room and board can still attend the colleges of their dreams. They may even pay less in the long run!

  • Asynchronous Class Assignments

In addition, hybrid learning allows many students to complete most of the classwork asynchronously. Asynchronous class assignments are beneficial for those with busy schedules, such as students who have to hold down jobs.

Students can complete asynchronous class assignments on their schedules. The only limiting factors are the deadlines when course assignments are due. Since hybrid learning classrooms teach both in-person and remote students, most class assignments will be asynchronous.

Only some assignments, such as exams, must be taken during classroom timeframes. For these timeframes, students must arrive “at class” on time. By arriving on time, they aren’t marked as late, and they don’t miss crucial tests that impact their grades.

  • Synchronous Time with Teachers

Hybrid students benefit from having more “synchronous” time with their professors. In contrast to purely remote students, hybrid students can ask teachers questions, form relationships with them, and ask for advice.

Of course, they can always do this via email or requested video conferencing meetings. But many students learn better when they can ask teachers questions in the middle of lectures. By using video conferencing software tools or even raising a hand, hybrid students can get the attention of professors when they need to.

In this way, their learning isn’t stunted because of the limitations of online learning overall. This benefit is most important if a student learns best from being in class instead of reading materials largely independently.

  • Flexibility for Teachers and Students

On top of those benefits, hybrid learning offers increased flexibility for both teachers and students. For example, teachers have more flexibility regarding how many students they can have in their classrooms.  This flexibility also translates to an increased paycheck for some professors!

For students, the extra flexibility comes from only having to attend class some of the time. Many hybrid classes are more accessible for students to participate in if they have busy personal schedules. In many cases, they don’t have to come to class multiple times per week. For some classes, they may only have to attend once per week to take a test or check in with the professor.

Since most of the work for a hybrid learning class is asynchronous, remote flexibility is also present.

  • Affordability for Many Students

Lastly, many hybrid college programs or classes are more affordable than in-person courses. For example, hybrid students don’t necessarily have to pay for room and board. They don’t stay at the college they attend, so they can save that money instead.

They only have to pay for their tuition and necessary fees and materials. Some students may need to purchase good video cameras or conferencing software. But in general, that is still more affordable than the cost of tuition in person.

Out-of-state hybrid students may see even higher cost savings. Out-of-state tuition is typically higher than in-state tuition for public universities. But suppose a student attends online or remotely. In that case, the savings could make the difference and allow them to afford out-of-state tuition anyway. Some colleges allow online out-of-state students to pay the same rate as online in-state students.

Downsides of Hybrid Learning

Although hybrid learning brings many benefits to students, some potential downsides to keep in mind do exist.

For example, hybrid learning takes away the high flexibility of classic remote learning programs. When students attend a hybrid learning program, they have to attend class on time with their in-person classmates. If they attend class from afar, they could be in a different time zone. This fact could make learning jarring or difficult. Imagine a class in which a student has to wake up at 6 AM in their time zone to “attend” a class at 10 AM in the college’s local time zone.

Furthermore, hybrid learning is not always as affordable or cost-effective as other remote learning opportunities. Although hybrid students don’t have to pay for room and board, they may have to pay the same rates for college tuition as in-person students. Note that this is dependent on the university, of course.

Lastly, hybrid learning may be limiting in terms of what questions students can ask. For all of its benefits, hybrid learners still cannot get up and physically get the attention of professors. Therefore, they must pay attention during lectures and take advantage of breaks to ask questions or ask for repeated information.

Hybrid learning relies on video conferencing or streaming software more than remote learning classes. Traditional online courses may never use video cameras. Students can complete their work completely invisibly, which may be ideal for certain personalities.

If a student can’t show up to class and view video conferences, hybrid learning may not suit them.

Who Should Pursue Hybrid Learning

Hybrid learning is the ideal form of college education solution for various students. Here are some examples of learners who may benefit from it.

Distance Students

Distance students, in particular, may benefit from hybrid learning, especially if they dislike the isolation inherent in traditional online learning courses. Imagine a student who wants to attend a specific college program. But they live in another state.

A hybrid learning program may allow them to attend their favorite university even if life circumstances prevent them from going there in person. They can still feel as though they are part of the class, still communicate with professors, and benefit from other elements of the college experience without significant downsides. Because of this experience, it is excellent for distance students, just like 100% remote learning opportunities are.

Students with Jobs that Require Travel

Additionally, hybrid learning can be great for students whose jobs require frequent travel. Imagine a student who attended a university in person for the first semester. However, the position they hold down to pay for college then requires them to move to a new state.

Whether the move is temporary or permanent, that student can continue to attend the same university through hybrid learning. They can maintain their relationships with professors or peers. They can also still feel somewhat at home through videoconferencing in classroom environments every week.

Seen in this light, it’s clear that hybrid learning allows students the freedom and flexibility to attend what schools they want when they want.

Online Students Who Prefer In-Person Learning

Lastly, any online students who like the in-person classroom environment may benefit from hybrid learning programs. For all its benefits, remote learning can be isolating or aggravating for many college students. Remote learning doesn’t let students make friendships as quickly, nor does it allow them to ask questions of professors as readily.

Plus, many college students just don’t like learning through the computer. They comprehend information better when they can see a professor explaining questions in person or when they can see how a professor draws problems and examples on a whiteboard.

Hybrid learning allows these students to get the college experience they need. Through hybrid learning, many college students feel as though they are present in classrooms, even if they are in another state or country.

Hybrid Learning Vs. Blended Learning

Although hybrid learning is similar to blended learning, the two are not the same things. Hybrid learning means classes are taught to remote and in-person students simultaneously. For some courses, remote students can view class lectures after the fact, though this is not universally true.

Blended learning, in contrast, is still primarily in-person-focused. Students usually attend class in the real world and view lectures in person. However, the class professor uses online or digital learning materials for teaching strategies or work assignments.

For example, in a blended learning class:

  • Students attend a class for a lecture on Wednesday morning.
  • After leaving the class, the professor assigns asynchronous work in the form of a PowerPoint project. Students are required to work on the PowerPoint project together. The PowerPoint project is due on Friday.
  • When students return to class on Friday, they turn in the project completed asynchronously. They also take an in-person exam.

Put another way, blended learning blends traditional learning strategies (such as lectures) with online/digital learning tools, like digital PowerPoint presentations. Alternatively, blended learning classes may have their students take tests online or complete homework online. It all depends on the course in question.

Therefore, hybrid learning classes may leverage blended learning elements. But blended learning classes are not hybrid classes unless otherwise specified. Because these terms are so similar, some universities use them interchangeably.

Students who wish to attend hybrid learning classes or take online courses should make sure they know what both of these terms mean for their chosen schools.

Hybrid Learning Vs. In-Person Learning

That depends on student goals and what types of teaching they respond to. In-person learning is very similar to hybrid learning in many important ways. However, in-person learning allows students greater access to professors and campus resources.

In-person learning is still the traditional way to experience college. Lots of people prefer to visit campuses physically because of this difference alone. Hybrid learning is not better than in-person learning in any capacity. Instead, these class experience models are best understood as different but equal.

Students should ask themselves:

  • Do they prefer to learn in a traditional classroom environment?
  • Are they self-starters?
  • Do students mind having to read a lot of their work alone?
  • Do students enjoy having a set schedule to attend class?

Answers to these questions can help students determine whether in-person or hybrid learning is better for their needs.

The Future of Hybrid Learning

Hybrid learning is almost certainly here to stay. Due to the benefits mentioned above, it is extremely popular, as is online learning in general. Online college education became even more popular and accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the wide range of online tools available to students, online learning is a better choice than ever before. With hybrid learning, students don’t have to sacrifice the ability to ask questions to professors at the moment. They can physically attend classes even if they are far away and experience a traditional classroom environment through a video camera or video conferencing software.

Hybrid learning may even become one of the most popular forms of college learning around the country. As colleges discover that they can increase the number of students in a classroom, they may lean into hybrid learning opportunities more readily.

Conclusion

As you can see, hybrid learning is an essential and modern means of delivering a college education. Through hybrid learning, students can attend class in-person or remotely without compromising education quality or materials. It could even become the default style of college classes in the future.

Do you think hybrid learning is a good choice for your college ambitions? If that’s the case, you’re in luck. GetEducated.com has a detailed list of online universities, many of which offer hybrid learning programs or classes. Check it out today, or contact us for more information!

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