Blended, Hybrid, and Flipped Courses: What’s the Difference?

Ariel Siegelman, Senior Instructional Technology Specialist

student working at computer

If you’ve read about or attended workshops on approaches to teaching and learning with technology, chances are you’ve come across a few different terms to describe classes that have an online component. What are blended, hybrid, and flipped courses? Are they all describing the same approach to teaching, or are they different from one another? Are they just teaching-with-technology buzzwords–just fads–or are they worthwhile approaches to structuring your courses?

While these terms are often used interchangeably, in fact, they each have fundamental differences. However, all three of these approaches do involve teaching and learning online, and they are all legitimate approaches that have a track record of student success. Read on below to learn more about these approaches and their benefits for student learning.

Blended Courses

A blended course involves face-to-face class sessions that are accompanied by online materials and activities–essentially a “blend” of both live and online learning. A fundamental component of a blended course is that these online materials are not intended to “replace” face-to-face class time; rather, they are meant to supplement and build upon the content discussed in the classroom.

With the widespread use of learning management systems such as Canvas, the blended course approach has become very popular since class materials are easily accessible to students. (You may already be teaching a blended course and not even know it!) Instructors will often use their online courses to post articles, videos, podcasts, quizzes, and interactive online activities for students to engage with outside of face-to-face class time. Since these materials are readily available via multiple devices, students can independently review course content at their own pace, on their own time, and as many times as necessary. This is a key reason why students not only often perform better in blended courses, but they also often have higher motivation and lower anxiety.

Hybrid Courses

“Blended courses” and “hybrid courses” are the terms most likely to be used interchangeably, but hybrid courses differ in that their online components are intended to replace a portion of face-to-face class time. Online interactions can either be synchronous, meaning that students are interacting online in real time, such as through class sessions conducted via Zoom, or asynchronous, meaning that students interact online at different times, such as through online discussions or VoiceThread.

In addition to having many of the benefits of a blended course, the hybrid approach is ideal for students who are living in different locations or are part-time due to a busy schedule or a full time job. Students do not have to travel to the face-to-face classroom as often and can complete coursework when and where it is most convenient for them. As opposed to a fully online course, however, maintaining the face-to-face component of the course can also help support students’ sense of class community, one of the biggest struggles an instructor faces in a fully online course.

[Editor’s note: for on Hybrid teaching, visit this page.]

Flipped Courses

A flipped course also typically includes both face-to-face and online components, but the way in which students interact with course content is different than in a traditional course. In a traditional course, students learn fundamental concepts in the classroom, either through lecture or class activities, and engage with materials that build upon that knowledge outside of the classroom. In a flipped classroom, this approach is inverted: Students learn fundamental knowledge prior to class, such as through readings, podcasts, or videos, and expand upon that knowledge through activities conducted in-class with the support of the instructor. Flipped courses are thus usually also blended courses, since materials are often provided online, and they can also be hybrid courses, if some of the class interactions take place online. However, blended and hybrid courses are not always flipped.

A host of research supports the flipped course approach. It has been found to allow students to learn fundamental knowledge based on their preferences and strengths, provide more class time for active learning, increase opportunities for peer-to-peer collaboration and teacher-student mentorship, and encourage the instructor to consistently monitor students’ progress. A flipped course thus allows both students and the instructor to take full advantage of both online resources and class time.

[To learn about how one Temple engineering professor flipped his classroom, check out this EDvice Exchange post from September. -Ed.]

The Takeaways

Now that you know the difference between blended, hybrid, and flipped learning, you can accurately describe the format of your course, or perhaps explore a format that would better suit your course! If you are a Temple instructor and are interested in improving, designing, or converting a course to one of these formats, our team at the CAT is here to help! You can book an appointment with one of our teaching and learning specialists to talk about planning and reevaluating a course, as well as with our instructional technology specialists to strategize ways to maximize your use of online technologies to support your course. Visit or call us at 215-204-8761.


Blended Learning, Hybrid Learning, The Flipped Classroom… What’s the Difference? (2017, April 7). [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Poon, J. (2013). Blended learning: An institutional approach for enhancing students’ learning experiences. Journal of online learning and teaching, 9(2), 271-288. Retrieved from

Roehl, A., Reddy, S. L., & Shannon, G. J. (2013). The flipped classroom: An opportunity to engage millennial students through active learning strategies. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences, 105(2), 44-49. Retrieved from

Ariel Siegelman is a Senior Instructional Technology Specialist at Temple’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Image by CollegeDegrees360 released under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license and cropped for display here.

Leave a Reply