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Teaching Techniques for Face-to-Face, Hybrid, & Online Learning Environments


Classroom types fall into three categories: face-to-face, hybrid, and online.  Crawford, Smith, and Smith (2008) describe face-to-face environments as “traditional,” hybrid environments as “web-enhanced,” and online environments as “web-based” (p. 136).   Teaching and learning are different depending on the environment.

The face-to-face environment “…ensures that instructors and learners engage in multiple forms of support and communications occur over a fixed period of time” (Crawford, Smith, & Smith, 2008, p. 136).  Students meet in person every class period, and teachers may not use any technology to achieve learning goals.  Even though lecture is widely used in traditional, face-to-face classrooms, it is not the best mode of learning.  Bates and Watson (2008) argue that, “Lectures are the main vehicle for transmitting knowledge from teacher to student” (p. 39).  However, students (and people in general) only retain about 5% of what they hear.  But when they teach others, they retain almost 90% of that information.  Therefore, cooperative learning is the most effective teaching technique in the face-to-face environment.  Cooperative Learning structures can be utilized by the teacher in order to create an atmosphere that promotes positive interdependence and engagement.  Instead of the teacher calling on one student to answer a question, they would have everyone in the class respond to every question through time and turns.  In addition, teachers could use teambuilders and classbuilders to make the most of instructional, face-to-face time.  In the end, the students learn more becuase they teach each other and they gain autonomy as the teacher becomes more of a facilitator.  The teacher only needs to lecture when giving short directions and technology is not needed for this technique.

The hybrid environment occurs when the “…predominantly face-to-face model connects the learners in a cooperative, interactive environment that offers online interactive activities” (Crawford, Smith, & Smith, 2008, p. 136).  Crawford, Smith, and Smith (2008) call the hybrid class the “best of both worlds” (p. 136).  The teacher may spend some of the class lecturing or giving directions and then utilize technology to extend student learning.  Inquiry-guided learning is a teaching technique that would work well in this setting because teachers would be able to guide students through the steps of asking good questions and research skills, and then students could individually use technology to conduct their research and build their knowledge.  Crawford, Smith, and Smith (2008) assert that, “…distance learning environments necessitate the development of more clearly and integrally woven self-regulatory support mechanisms in learners” (p. 136).  A hybrid environment would be the perfect platform in which to teach these skills because the teacher is still there as a guide.

Finally, online, or distance learning, is an entirely web-based learning environment in which there is no face-to-face interaction.  Therefore, teachers of online courses must work hard to connect to their students on a personal level.  Bates and Watson (2008) state that, “The online instructor should be a faciliator, not a ‘sage on the stage'” (p. 38).  Whereas a teacher in a traditional classroom may take the lead most of the time, the teacher in an online class is simply a guide.  Students in online environments must be self-regulating and independent because they are accountable for their learning.  The best teaching technique would be an online course platform such as Blackboard, where teachers and students can interact, complete assignments, etc.  At first, it did not seem like Blackboard would allow me to interact with my peers in the same way as face-to-face, but I found this not to be the case the more I used it.  I find I have learned more about people on a personal level than if I met them in person.

Ultimately, the challenge for organizations will be preparing teachers for implementing hybrid and online curriculums.  Buckenmeyer (2010) asserts, “If change is to occur in the classrooms, it must begin with the teacher, not the technology” (p. 34).  Bates and Watson take this further and say it is “…less about the technology and more about what to do with the technology” (p. 38).  Technological resources are nothing without proper teacher training and support.

As the hybrid environment offers the best balance between traditional and online techniques, this will be used for my learning activity.  Students will be completing a blog in which they share what they have learned while researching a modern, controversial topic that connects to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.  I will first guide them through the steps of research, but then they will conduct the research using the questions they generate.  Ultimately, they are the ones who will find scholarly sources and best evidence.  Finally, students will provide feedback to each other in order to challenge their viewpoints.

My question is: Which environment do you work in and what are some benefits and drawbacks?


Bates, C., & Watson, M.  (2008).  Re-learning teaching techniques to be effective in hybrid and online courses.  Journal of American Academy or Business. Cambridge, 13(1), 38-44.

Buckenmeyer, J. A.  (2010).  Beyond computers in the classroom: Factors related to technology adoption to enhance teaching and learning.  [Article]. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 3(4), 27-35.

Crawford, C. M., Smith, R. A., & Smith, M.S. (2008).   Course student satisfaction results: Differentiation between face-to-face, hybrid, and online learning environments. [Article]. CEDER Yearbook, 135-149.


Great video that explains how blended learning is different from classroom technology instruction: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD8AUfGsCKg



1 Comment

  1. rachaelnwitt says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    Your post looks great! In response to your question, I teach in a face-to-face learning environment while utilizing technology to the best of my ability to engage learners and create a more hybrid approach. I’m really excited to move more toward a hybrid approach as I become more comfortable with the different options and techniques available. The only drawbacks I either have faced or anticipate facing, is the availability of technology in the classroom, and the students access to technology outside of the class. Furthermore, because I teach in middle school, some sites are blocked as they require users to be at least 13 years old or older. However, there are definitely many options available, and I just need to have some time to look into more ways move toward hybrid learning.


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