Another dot in the blogosphere?

What is “online learning”?

Posted on: November 6, 2020

If there was an agenda in this excellent review article, it was to provide answers to the question: What is online learning? Here is Part 1 of my notes on the article.


  • Online learning with synonymous with asynchronous, text-based learning
  • Blended learning was about mixing face-to-face and online modes of learning
  • Hybrid learning (Australia, non-USA) was synonymous with blended learning (USA)

By late-1990s

  • Synchronous learning methods evolved
  • Examples: Basic ‘live’ sharing of resources, e.g., slides; “blended online learning”


  • Video conferencing ramped up
  • Synchronous learning was practically synonymous with video-enabled communication
  • Modalities (i.e., blended or hybrid) became largely irrelevant

In 2007: HyFlex (hybrid-flexible)

  • Combining both online and face-to-face modalities, and flexible, where “students may choose whether or not to attend face-to-face sessions
  • Similar to what is happening in universities during the age of COVID-19

In 2006, the author of the review article offered her own framework that mixed three modes (face-to-face, online synchronous, online asynchronous) with one on access (open access or not). While I favour any experience designed with open access, I do not see the logic of the mix from a modal lens.

When viewed through the lens of learner access, however, her framework starts to make sense. The learner decides if s/he goes to campus or not, works concurrently with others or not, and has limited or unlimited access to materials.

2010s: Multi-access frameworks

  • Examples: Blended synchronous (2013) and synchronous hybrid (2014)
  • In both, students can be on campus or online, but both meet via conferencing or shared online platforms/virtual worlds/telepresence robots.

The author took a paragraph to focus on asynchronous efforts in the same time frame. Some important ideas:

  • Asynchronous communication requires more monitoring and digital literacy than synchronous-only classes
  • Those new to teaching online in general may also prefer the synchronous-only design, so as to minimise the workload creep that comes with robust asynchronous communication
  • Designs should consider… reducing synchronous instructional hours to create time for asynchronous activities and dialogue
  • Many learners… will develop their own private backchannel spaces to support learner-only asynchronous peer-to-peer communication

More notes tomorrow!

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