Defining Different Modes of Learning: Resolving Confusion and Contention Through Consensus

Nicole Johnson, Jeff Seaman, Russ Poulin


There has been longstanding contention about how terms related to online and hybrid learning should be defined. In this study, we report survey findings on how administrators and faculty apply the following terms in practice: online learning, hybrid learning, hyflex learning, in-person learning, synchronous learning, and asynchronous learning. Drawing upon the literature, the research team developed survey definitions for each of these terms. The survey then asked participants to rate the extent to which they agreed with the survey definitions. A total of 987 faculty and 1,051 administrators participated in the study. Participants represented the full range of higher education institutions in the United States. The key finding from the study is that there was widespread agreement with the survey definitions, which is contrary to much of the literature that indicates confusion and contention about how online and hybrid learning terms should be defined. In light of the findings, we provide a framework for categorizing common learning modes and the variations that exist within these modes. This study provides a foundation for establishing common language and shared understandings as online and hybrid course offerings (and learning technologies, in general) continue to evolve.


definitions, online learning, hybrid learning, hyflex learning, teaching modes

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Copyright (c) 2022 Nicole Johnson, Jeff Seaman, Russ Poulin

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