Online, Blended, or Face-to-Face Learning

Module 6 : Learning in a Digital World

Conversations about online learning, face-to-face learning, and blended learning are ubiquitous. Equally prevalent are debates pitting one method of learning modality against another. Perceptions of which type of environment, online, face-to-face, or blended, is recognized as valuable and credible, even in the wake of online courses and blended courses offered by some of America’s Ivy League schools, are equally diverse. In a recent conversation with a Professor of Marriage and Family Counseling who teaches graduate courses exclusively online, she postulated that the notion that degrees obtained online are “bought and sold” is a real-world issue. I found this perception puzzling, considering accrediting standards for curriculum in colleges and universities across the country, brick and mortar or otherwise, mirror one another. In addition, informal conversations with students in each of the three environments at different times in their academic journey revealed they were less concerned with the format in which they completed their instruction, rather more concerned with the kinds of instruction and interaction they received. Complementing this notion is Paechter and Maier’s (2010) study which revealed that when students were required to collaborate on assignments and form shared opinions or solutions, they advocated for face-to-face learning. On the other hand, they preferred online learning “for the dissemination of information and the fast online feedback” (Paechter & Maier, 2010, pp. 295-296). Echoing these sentiments that students learn when the three distinct components converge,McGuire’s (2010) study found that “the most important component across all course delivery modalities [was] course content; outstanding advanced technology and instructor competence and the ability to “connect” with students have little impact if course content material does not facilitate and reinforce the learning experience.”  From these findings, it is clear that a constant truism is that learners in online environments, face-to-face environments, and blended environments thrive when content is engaging.

 As we segued into other pertinent issues in education, namely what type of content must be included in all delivery modalities, essential learner outcomes, and the best conditions for learning in any environment, it occurred to me that the ideas I posited, my philosophy of learning, parallel constructivism greater than other learning theories.  These critical, non-negotiable beliefs are rooted in the fact that students learn best in an environment enriched with the interactions of others. Simply put, these environments are replete with activities that enable students to construct their own knowledge. The premise that the process is more important than the product is a key focus in this student-centered classroom. Driscoll (2005) argued that constructivist theorist Jerome Bruner believed that in order for knowledge to transfer, there must be progressively sophisticated interactions with others that are encoded and processed within the learner. In addition, transfer is based on experiences and contexts that make the student willing and able to learn.  As such, I believe instruction must be facilitated by building onto what the learner already knows which should begin by exploring student interests.

That’s my take, Linette

Check out this interesting blog on face-to-face and online learning.

Here’s a link to a YouTube video demonstrating effective blended model learning strategies


Driscoll, M . P (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction (3rd ed). Boston: Pearson

Education Week. (2012, March 9). Blended learning, real teaching. Retrieved from

Manuela Paechter, M., & Maier, B. (2010). Online or face-to-face? Students’ experiences and preferences in e-learning. Internet and Higher Education, 13, 292–297. Retrieved from

McGuire, C. J. (2010). An Analysis of Student Self-Assessment of Online, Blended, and Face-to-Face Learning Environments: Implications for Sustainable Education Delivery. International Education Studies, Education Studies, 3 (3), 35-40. Retrieved from


 Wolpert-Gawron, G. (2011, April 28). Blended learning: Combining face-to-face and online education. [Web log post]

Retrieved from


2 thoughts on “Online, Blended, or Face-to-Face Learning

  1. Hi Linette,

    I agree with you that students learn best in an environment that is “enriched with interactions of others”. I have seen some group interactions where a student would be struggling with a learning problem, but through the help of their peers, they always seem to walk away with a deeper understanding of the particular item and are able to connect the dots in a method that sometimes the educator could not make.

    It has been great interacting with you over the course of this class and I look forward to running into you in future classes.


  2. Hi Linette,
    Thank you, once again, for sharing the fantastic resources. As I read your entry I could understand both sides of the conversation you held with your colleague. As an online instructor in some colleges there is pressure to keep course completion rates high. I have encountered some instructors who feel the only way to do this is to advance learners who are not able to meet the course objectives. But, there is another way to keep course completion rates high. Engage your learners. Connect with them. It is a lot more work but it is very rewarding. This approach is the opposite of the traditional model, “the lecturing, all knowing, talking head”. You, as an educator with a constructivist paradigm, are the “new era of education” engaging instructor. It will probably take some time for all of us as educators to find our footing and then other changes in technology will push farther.

    Thank you for mentoring me!

    Warm Regards,

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