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What are the benefits of using technology while teaching in a hybrid-learning environment and how can a hybrid-learning environment improve learning? by Karen Kelly December, 2009 This is a synthesis paper of the research that I have done investigating the benefits of using technology while teaching in a hybrid-learning environment and how a hybridlearning environment can improve learning. I have pursued this topic because the traditional classroom face-to-face setting is not providing the needs for many of today’s 21st century/millennial learners. “Millennial is a term widely used to designate those generations born from the 1980s onwards and who have been raised in a context where digital technologies form an inextricable part of daily life” (Pedró, 2006, p.2). Some students have moved away from face-to-face learning to a 100% online education setting, and although the online education has been successful, online education still has disadvantages (Kirtman, 2009). The 21st century/millennial learner may learn more optimally in a hybrid-learning environment (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2009). A hybridlearning environment offers a blend of the strengths from the traditional classroom faceto-face setting with the strengths from the online setting using technology to improve learning. The Needs of the 21st Century or Millennial Learner The needs of the 21st century or millennial learner are changing because the learning styles of students are changing. As reported by Dede, Korte, Nelson, Valdez, & Ward (2005), one outcome of the rapid advances in information technology is the reshaping of learning styles in our students today. The 21st century/millennial learners exposure to multiple media influences learners in such a way that their learning is based on seeking, sieving, and synthesizing (Dede et al., 2005). In addition, our students have become multi-taskers. They listen to music, communicate with their friends using many different types of communication, use the Internet, skim their text, and do their homework all at the same time. The ability to collaborate is also a trend in the learning styles of our students today. Students are also actively learning with non-linear approaches as apposed to linear approaches. This is happening more and more as the students are increasingly being exposed to virtual environments. Learning in the 21st century requires many different skills. Reports from Dede, et al. (2005) have identified the necessary skills that the 21st century learner requires as being higher-order thinking skills. In addition to requiring higher-order thinking skills, the context in which students learn is also important. “More than ever before, today’s children need to have learning experiences embedded in a context where the relevance of their studies to their future is apparent” (Dede, et al., 2005, p. 8). Dede, et al. (2005) also report that the students of today need guided inquiry and collaborative learning.


Face-to-Face Learning Strengths. Face-to-face learning has long been the traditional method of learning. Richmond (2006) reports that one of the strengths of face-to-face learning is that it offers personal contact and interactions with teachers and peers. Richmond (2006) also states that teachers and peers can be big motivators of learners, especially those students that are competitive and social. Another strength of face-to-face learning, reported by Hannay & Newvine (2005), is that it allows the instructor to modify the lecture plans on the basis of moment-to-moment feedback from the learners. The opportunities that students have to complete labs and experience field trips are also strengths of face-to-face learning. Weaknesses. Face-to-face learning has disadvantages. “Teachers are using strategies such as lecture and drill-and-practice to race through the glut of recipes, facts, and test-taking skills they are expected to cover. Despite research indicating that guided inquiry, collaborative learning, mentoring, and apprenticeships are far more effective instructional strategies, teachers feel they just do not have time. They know that using these methods takes up too many class periods, compared with simply delivering information for students’ passive absorption. Sadly what is left out is the teachers’ means to prioritize knowledge and skills in terms of 21st century citizenship; workplace capabilities for the global, knowledge-based economy; and lifelong learning” (Dede, et al., 2005). Face-to-face learning is also not flexible in its time-frame(s), in its location, and in the number of students that are able to partake in each class. Face-to-face learning is often designed around a “set” learner and generally the type of learning style for face-toface is more supplantive than generative. Face-to-face learning also does not provide many opportunities to use technology. 100% Online Learning Strengths. In contrast to the traditional classroom face-to-face setting, Richmond (2006), and Hannya & Newvine (2005), state that the 100% online distance method of learning is flexible by providing students with opportunities to manage their own time and to save time without having to travel. This flexibility has been proven effective, especially for students with increasing work and familial commitments (Ginns and Ellis, 2006). Richmond (2006) also adds that another advantage to online learning is that the learner can gain incredible insight into a course because the learner could have classmates that live any where in the world. Another strength of online learning, according to Anderson (2008), is that it tends to be more generative in nature.


Weaknesses. Tuysuz, et al. (2005) report that a disadvantage of a 100% online course requires that teachers need to have advanced computer skills. Online education also requires necessary technological equipment and materials for preparation of online course and to take the online course. “Also, course expectations are often not clear, and because of the physical separation between the instructor and student, problems may be difficult to resolve” (Hannay & Newvine, 2005, p.1). The online student needs to be highly proficient in the use of computers, and also needs regular Internet connections. Each student must also “…. be able to process written materials and texts at least as efficiently as they process lecture and discussion” (Lindsay, 2004, p.1). , and “…students may have problems comprehending course information that is technical, quantitative or scientifically oriented” (Hannay & Newvine, 2005, p.1). Also, students that aren’t efficient time managers or lack self-motivation could have difficulties with success in their online courses. While all learning requires the learner to be responsible, mature, and to be able to meet deadlines, the 100% online learners will have more success if responsibility, maturity, and timeliness are strengths of the learners because they do not have a classroom teacher helping and pushing them as they proceed through the course. In addition, the 100% online students may not do the practices that accompany the course work, unless the students are held accountable for them. Also, the information that the student gets from the Internet sources may not necessarily be valid or reliable. Then there is the concern that students may become too inward and experience social deprivation. The final disadvantage in taking a 100% online course is that students do not have access to “hands-on” labs and field trips. Hybrid Learning using Technology Strengths. Hybrid learning offers two very different learning environments within the same course. “A hybrid course is a traditional, face-to-face course that has incorporated online elements, using the same course management software that underpins courses taught entirely online” (Lindsay, 2004, p.1). According to Tuysuz et al. (2005), it was designed to eradicate problems in the 100% online learning and the traditional face-face (F2F) learning environments. Tuysuz et al. (2005) explain that hybrid learning involves 40 60% being taught face-to-face and the rest at a distance. “The goal of hybrid learning is to improve the educational experience for students by joining together the best features of in-class teaching with the best features of online learning to promote active independent learning and reduce class seat time” (Doering, 2006, p. 198). “Two different approaches to K-12 hybrid learning are being utilized within the USA: (a) students taking courses in school in a F2F environ-ment and out of school in an online education course, and (b) students enrolling in online education courses in school while teachers are facilitators assisting when necessary and instructing lessons that enhance and/or complement what they are learning online” (Doering, 2006, p. 198). Hybrid learning offers a “middle of the road” type of learning model that utilizes the good factors from both traditional face-face and 100% online learning and blends them into a great opportunity for students to learn.


Research has shown that hybrid-learning: •

Improves attitudes and increases motivation in the learner. “Student attitudes towards combining distance-learning techniques with traditional lecture tended to be positive” (Yudko, Hirokawa, & Chi, 2008, p.10).

Has been found to improve students’ learning, understanding, and success rate (Tuysuz et al. , 2005).

Can provide the "hands-on" learning in the face-to-face component. “The problems in teaching practice oriented subjects such as laboratory applications and workshops can be dealt with the face-to-face education” (Tuysuz et al., 2005, p.3).

“ Has a more dynamic structure than the traditional systems, ....web-based teaching and learning environment includes audio, video, graphics, two or three dimensional (2D or 3D) animations and learning materials which presents instant feedback that can provide to students an enjoyable study opportunities and a long lasting learning” (Tuysuz, et al., 2005, p.1).

Is a space saver. In situations with overcrowded schools, this is an asset.

Has proven to be a way to improve communication o Between the learner and the facilitator, especially for large classes. “Studies have shown that students believe the hybrid approach improves communication and interaction, both between students and between the students and instructors” (Lindsay, 2004, p.1). o “[C]ourse participants can benefit from being connected to a learning community regardless of whether they are apart or together” (Owston, et al., 2008, p.2). o “[T]he interactions among students continue even after classes. This encourages students to study and spend more time together” (Tuysuz et al., 2005, p.3). o The students should also attain skills that may help learners develop modern communication and collaboration methods (Ginns and Ellis, 2006).

Is an opportunity to become technologically literate and to use resources beyond the boundaries of time and space (Tuysuz, et al., 2005). “Students do believe that they benefit from this technology, but the belief is strongest in those who are most computer/Internet literate” (Yudko et al., 2008, p.1).


Any “… technological disadvantages in the web-based learning are compensated with the clarity of face-to-face education” (Tuysuz et al., 2005, p.3).

Offers immediate access to an increasing amount of knowledge (Ginns and Ellis, 2006). “This may encourage students to take charge of their own learning experience, make full use of their resources (texts etc.), work at their own pace, and provide some scheduling flexibility (the best of DL) [distance learning], while also providing an occasional live forum for face-to-face discussions with the instructor and the rest of the class members to build a stronger learning community” (Hannay, & Newvine, 2005, p.1).

Offers real life learning to students, and it is suitable for many types of learners. “The abstract concepts difficult to comprehend and learning of logical problems requiring calculations have turned into troubles in the virtual environment” (Tuysuz et al., 2005, p.3).

Helps to lower dropout rates (Owston, et al., 2008).

Higher achievement than in traditional courses. Students “…who were taught the topic by hybrid model either in groups or between groups and among schools have a significantly higher success rates over students …. who received the course through traditional methods” (Tuysuz et al., 2005, p.8).

Reduces the costs of teaching. “It was found that teaching costs may be reduced in two ways: first, because different campuses can utilize the same instructor as a resource for a telecourse, and second, with some Web-based courses an instructor can handle a larger number of students, ultimately reducing the overhead costs of faculty” (Hannay & Newvine, 2005, p.1).

“Garnham and Kaleta at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee—a leading institution in hybrid course develop-ment—assert that hybrid courses offer many advantages over F2F [face-to-face] or completely online courses including convenience, interaction, flexibility, and increased learning and retention” (Doering, 2006, p. 198).

“[W]hen the dynamic of fast-paced, spontaneous verbal communication characteristic of face-to-face learning is combined with the potential for thoughtful discussion and reflection online, the educational possibilities are multiplied” (Owston, et al., 2008, p.2).


Weaknesses. The hybrid-learning model has been identified as having many strengths as has been discussed in the previous section. Ates, Turali, & Guneyce (2008) report that 46.6% of the students they surveyed could not find any disadvantages at all in the hybridlearning model. Several weaknesses of the hybrid-learning model however have been reported by Richmond (2006). Richmond (2006) reports that the hybrid-learning model would not be successful or suitable for all subject areas. The hybrid-learning model is also not successful for students that lack self-discipline (Ates, et al 2008). Hybridlearning requires students ..."who can work on their own and who have computer technology abilities" (Ates, Turali, & Guneyce, 2008, p. 7). Another weakness of hybridlearning reported by Lindsay (2004) is the need for expensive computers and Internet connections. Ates, et al (2008) also add that there is a higher learning curve for instructors using the hybrid-learning model. Ginns and Ellis (2006) reinforce this by reporting that teachers need to focus on the technical capacities and functions of on-line materials and activities and also need to understand their students' perceptions of the learning as they progress through the course. Ates, et al (2008) also mention that the online portion of the hybrid-learning could be too lonely for some students and result in asocial situations for the students. Conclusion The primary goal of education is to be successful in educating students. In reaching that goal, one must understand the learners. When there is an understanding of the learners, then one can create a learning environment with many strengths and few weaknesses. I have presented strong evidence, from the educational community, to support the use of technology while teaching in a hybrid-learning environment to improve learning. The increase in technological literacy and the offering of a more dynamic structure with the use of technology, help to improve learning. Also, the improved communication with interactions carrying on after class using collaborative skills are key factors to improving learning. The hybrid-learning environment also has been found to improve attitudes among students, increase students' motivation to do well, improve students' learning, understanding, and success, and offer students' resources beyond the boundaries of space and time.


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What are the benefits of using technology while teaching in a hybrid-learning environment?