Blended learning


Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance

Promote participation in higher education and equality of opportunity for learners

What can I do?

  • Include both online (asynchronous) and face-to-face (synchronous) instruction when teaching students
  • Try to make online and face-to-face instruction overlap to some extent rather than independent of each other
  • Use videos embedded with interactive activities to make your online learning engaging

What is this about?

Blended learning refers to the use of a combination of traditional face-to-face instruction and online learning. Blended learning can take many forms, including hybrid courses, which combine on-campus and online learning, and flipped classrooms, which use online resources to introduce material and reserve class time for more interactive and hands-on activities. Blended learning can offer the benefits of both face-to-face and online learning, such as the ability to personalise and customise the learning experience, and to provide students with more flexibility and convenience.

What's the evidence say?

Blended learning leads to improved learning outcomes.

Combining online and face-to-face approaches leads to improved learning outcomes compared to either approach alone. Importantly, blended learning seems to be most effective when the online and face-to-face elements are added to rather than substituted for each other.

Interactivity and videos are hallmarks of the online element of effective blended learning.

Blended learning seems to be most effective when the online elements support student-centred learning through interactive means. For example, educators could offer students online quizzes or have students create online concept maps. Also, using videos as online learning tools are particularly useful when added to face-to-face teaching.

How to create an interactive video using H5P:

How to create an interactive presentation using H5P:

Adding online elements to face-to-face instruction allows students the time to reflect on the learning, while also reducing demands on attention and memory.

Cognitive load theory

The online learning element allows students to be flexible in how they engage in learning. They can choose when and how they learn, as well as reattempt and revise learning. This level of autonomy is assumed to reduce the cognitive load of students during online learning, but also when they attend face-to-face classes. That is, students in blended learning environments arrive at face-to-face classes primed with ideas and knowledge important for learning.

Reflective knowledge

It is hypothesised that the online learning elements that comprise blended learning approaches afford reflective knowledge construction. That is, because of the self-paced nature of online learning, students have more time to reflect on their learning and greater opportunity to absorb key information into their existing understandings.

What's the underlying theory?

  1. Self-Determination Theory suggests that blended learning can enhance motivation and engagement by promoting a sense of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy refers to the feeling of being in control of one's own life and decisions. Competence refers to the feeling of being capable and effective. Relatedness refers to the feeling of being connected to others. Blended learning can foster these feelings by providing clear goals, rules, and feedback, and by giving students a sense of choice and control over their learning experience.
  2. Self-Regulation Theory suggests that blended learning can facilitate learning by providing students with the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning and to monitor and regulate their own progress. Blended learning can provide students with more flexibility and control over their learning environment and schedule, which can promote self-regulation and self-directed learning.
  3. Social Cognitive Theory suggests that blended learning can influence learning by providing information about the standards and expectations of the learning environment and by providing opportunities for social comparison. Blended learning can also provide a sense of social support and encouragement, which can enhance motivation and learning.

Where does the evidence come from?

The quantity and quality of research on blended learning give us great confidence in the effect of this approach.

This evidence summary is informed by four meta-analyses. The ones by Means and colleagues (2009; 2013) are impressive. While a risk of bias analysis wasn't conducted, the other GRADE features are addressed well. These meta-analyses also earned points for demonstrating dose-response effects. That is, the more blended learning students are exposed to, the better their academic performances. The Vo et al. (2017) meta-analysis is lacking in aspects of the GRADE criteria (not randomised trials, poor homogeneity, no risk of bias). But the Noetel et al. (2020) paper is high quality, providing us with an overall high level of confidence in the effect of blended learning on student achievement.


Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., & Baki, M. (2013). The effectiveness of online and blended learning: a meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Teachers College Record, 115(3), 1-47.

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2009). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: a meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. U.S. Department of Education.

Noetel, M., Griffith, S., Delaney, O., Sanders, T., Parker, P., del Pozo Cruz, B., & Lonsdale, C. (2020). Are you better on YouTube? A systematic review of the effects of video on learning in higher education.

Vo, H. M., Zhu, C., & Diep, N. A. (2017). The effect of blended learning on student performance at course-level in higher education: a meta-analysis. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 53, 17-28.

Additional Resources