Blending In: The Extent and Promise of Blended Education in the United States

Abstract: 

Blending In: The Extent and Promise of Blended Education in the United States is aimed at answering some of the fundamental questions about the nature and extent of education in the United States. Unlike the previous reports that focused exclusively on online learning, the current report examines blended (also called hybrid) instruction. The findings are based on three years of responses from a national sample of over 1,000 colleges and universities. Additional results are presented from an Eduventures-conducted national survey of 2,033 U.S. adults interested in postsecondary education in the next three years.

Full Article (PDF): 

 

Blending In: The Extent and Promise of Blended Education in the United States builds on the series of annual reports on the state of online education in U.S. Higher Education. This study, like the previous reports, is aimed at answering some of the fundamental questions about the nature and extent of education in the United States. Unlike the previous reports that focused exclusively on online learning, the current report examines blended (also called hybrid) instruction. The findings are based on three years of responses from a national sample of over 1,000 colleges and universities. Additional results are presented from an Eduventures-conducted national survey of 2,033 U.S. adults interested in postsecondary education in the next three years.

Are Blended Courses More Prevalent than Fully Online Courses?

Background: With a perception that blended learning is easier to offer than fully online courses, more students at more diversified types of institutions may be taking advantage of these courses.

The evidence: Blended courses are not more prevalent than fully online courses. Very similar proportions of schools report offering blended courses as offer online courses, with slightly more citing online offerings than blended. There is also little evidence of growth in blended course offerings.

  • Only at Baccalaureate institutions, where online education has the smallest penetration rate, are a slightly greater or an equal percent of blended courses offered.
  • Offerings of blended courses decreased slightly between 2003 and 2005 while online course offerings grew.
  • There are a slightly larger percent of blended program offerings than online programs across all disciplines.

Do Blended Courses Hold More Promise than Fully Online Courses?

Background: Perceived by some as a “best of both worlds” approach compared to fully online courses, blended learning may have a higher acceptance and a higher perceived value (closer to face-to-face learning) than online courses.

The evidence: Academic leaders do not regard blended courses as holding more promise than fully online courses. This view appears to be true regardless of size and type of school with the only exception being the small number of schools which offer blended courses but not online courses.

  • Overall, only 38 percent of respondents agreed that “Blended courses hold more promise than online courses” in 2004. This is a decrease from 46 percent agreement in 2003.
  • Most of the respondents agreeing with the statement were from smaller, private, not-for-profit, and Baccalaureate institutions.
  • Only schools offering blended but not online courses had a majority likely to agree with this statement and this percentage dropped from 72 percent in 2003 to 68 percent in 2004.

Are Blended Courses a Stepping Stone for Institutions on the Way to Fully Online Courses?

Background: With faculty less likely to embrace online then face-to-face courses, and with fully developed brick and mortar campuses, are blended courses a good compromise position for the long term, or are these courses just the first step towards online degree programs?

The evidence: The answer appears to be that blended courses are not just a stepping stone to offering online courses or programs. There are far more blended courses and programs being offered than would be present if institutions were using them only as a transition to fully online. Schools with established online courses and programs have a smaller percentage of blended courses than schools with no or only a small percentage of courses online. The percentage of reported blended course offerings remained stable from 2002–2005 while the percentage offered online has increased.

  • Schools report offering an average of 10.6 percent of their course sections online in 2005, up from 6.5 percent in 2003, while the respective percentages for blended offerings shown a steady decline from 2003 (6.8%) to 2005 (5.6%).
  • The number of institutions that offer blended courses without offering any online courses is very small at private, non-profit institutions (17.1%), public institutions (3.8%), and private, for-profit institutions (6.6%).

What is the Consumer Experience and Perception of Online and Blended Delivery Options?

Background: Higher Education institutions have been investing in both online and blended courses and programs. Are these decisions supported by consumer preferences?

The evidence: The answer is positive, the market for online/blended delivery has a lot of room for growth. Consumer preference for online and blended delivery far exceeds reported experience, and consumer openness to these delivery modes far exceeds preference.

  • Consumer data does not suggest an endorsement of a particular mode of delivery, but rather reflects both uncertainty as to the inherent value of particular modes and an openness to consider a variety of modes.
  • The situation is dynamic. As consumer experience grows and becomes more sophisticated, the balance between consumers’ who regard delivery mode as a primary versus secondary consideration may shift.