While teachers have always used a variety of teaching methods and media, blended learning includes the recent availability of digital learning technologies and Internet-based tools that facilitate communication, interaction, and collaborative learning. Neither e-learning nor the traditional classroom are ideal for all types of learning. Blended learning offers the opportunity to incorporate the ‘best of both worlds’ to improve teaching and learning, to take “advantage of the strengths of both learning environments and be more successful in avoiding their weaknesses.” (Node, 2003) Evidence from a study conducted by Alfred P. Rovai and Hope M. Jordan “suggest that blended courses produce a stronger sense of community among students than either traditional or fully online courses” (Rovai and Jordan, 2004).
Dr. Margaret Driscoll identifies four different concepts in defining blended learning The first defines blended learning as meaning “to combine or mix modes of Web-based technology (e.g., live virtual classroom, self-paced instruction, collaborative learning, streaming video, audio, and text) to accomplish an educational goal.” (Driscoll, 2002) Other authors also define blended learning according to Driscoll’s first. For example in the introduction to “Building Effective Blended Learning Programs”, Harry Singh (2003) indicates blended learning models “combine various delivery modes. Anecdotal evidence indicates that blended learning not only offers more choices but also is more effective.”
Dr. Driscoll’s second definition describes blended learning as meaning “to combine various pedagogical approaches (e.g., constructivism, behaviorism, cognitivism) to produce an optimal learning outcome with or without instructional technology.” (Driscoll, 2002)
As Charles Graham points out in his introduction to the article “Blended Learning Systems: Definition, Current Trends, and Future Directions”, both of these first two concepts “suffer from the problem that they define BL so broadly that there encompass virtually all learning systems.” (Bonk & Graham, 2004)
The third definition from Dr. Driscoll (2002) defines blended learning as meaning “to combine any form of instructional technology (e.g., videotape, CD-ROM, Web-based training, film) with face-to-face instructor-led training.” (Driscoll, 2002) Most authors echo this definition such as Gary Harriman, who indicated in his article, “What is Blended Learning” (2004), that “blended learning combines online with face-to-face learning. The goal of blended learning is to provide the most efficient and effective instruction experience by combining delivery modalities.” (GrayHarriman, 2004) In addition, Judith Smith in her article, “Blended Learning: An Old Friend Gets a New Name”, defined blended learning “as a method of educating at a distance that uses technology (high-tech, such as television and the Internet or low-tech, such as voice mail or conference calls) combined with traditional (or, stand-up) education or training.” (Smith, 2001) Simply put the Rochester Institute of Technology reported in the “Blended Learning Pilot Project: Final Report for the Academic Year 2003–2004” that “blended learning aims to join the best of classroom teaching and learning with the best of online teaching and learning.” (Rochester Institute, 2004) New South Wales Department of Education and Training (2005) echoes the above authors in the article, “Blended Learning” by stating “blended learning is learning which combines online and face-to-face approaches.” (NSW, 2005) Richard Voos (2003) also repeats this definition that blended learning is a combination of face-to-face and online media while he goes on to state that blended learning also results in “seat time” being “significantly reduced”. (Voos, 2003) Carla Garnham and Robert Kaleta (2002) identified blended learning or hybrid courses as joining the best features of “in-class teaching with the best features of online learning to promote active independent learning and reduce class seat time.” (Garnham and Kaleta, 2002) Alfred Rovai and Hope Jordan (Aug 2004) in the article “Blended Learning and Sense of Community: A Comparative Analysis with Traditional and Fully Online Graduate Courses” indicate “a blended course can lie anywhere between the continuum anchored at opposite ends by fully face-to-face and fully online learning environments.” (Rovai and Jordan, 2004) “According to Colis and Moonen (2001) blended learning is a hybrid of traditional face-to-face and online learning so that instruction occurs both in the classroom and online, and where the online component becomes a natural extension of traditional classroom learning.” (Rovai and Jordan, 2004) e-Learning Centre’s Library defines blended learning as “a learning solution created through a mixture of face-to-face, live e-learning, self-paced learning as well through a mix of media – ‘the magic is in the mix!’ or ‘the beauty is in the blend!’ ” (e-Learning Centre, 2005) The Australian National Training Authority’s (2003) “Definitions of Key Terms Used in e-learning” provides a definition of blended learning from Flexible Learning Advisory Group (2004) as “learning methods that combine e-learning with other forms of flexible learning and more traditional forms of learning. “