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Online Education: Faculty : Online Definitions

Guide to Online Education resources for Faculty

Faculty Online Education Guide

Useful Definitions

Online Learning Models

Hybrid Model 

Hybrid courses merge face-to-face and online teaching into one cohesive experience. In the traditional hybrid model, approximately half of the class sessions are on-campus, while the other half have students working online. While this approx. 50/50 split is the current hybrid standard, we may see this formula evolve due to the COVID-19 crisis. 

HyFlex Model 

HyFlex courses leverage the components of hybrid learning in a flexible course structure that enables students to attend sessions in the classroom, participate online, or both. By design, students can change their mode of attendance according to need or preference. When the appropriate technology is available, HyFlex courses can break down the boundaries between the virtual and the physical classroom. 

Flipped Classroom 

The Flipped Classroom model consciously “flips” the traditional relationship between the way students spend their class time and the work they do on their own time. Students learn the bulk of course content via online coursework and lectures, and instructors use class time for discussion, questions, group projects, etc. This model emphasizes class time as an opportunity to build a learning community. 

Fully Online Model

In a fully online model, all learning is done virtually, either synchronously or asynchronously (or some combination therein). 

Online Learning Components


The instructor, the learner, and other participants are not engaged in the learning process at the same time. There is no real-time interaction with other people. 
Examples: Canvas discussion, recorded lecture, assignments submitted for a grade 


Synchronous learning is an event in which a group of participants is engaged in learning at the same time. 
Examples: Traditional classroom, Zoom meeting, Canvas Conference 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Does asynchronous mean self-paced?  
    Asynchronous means no real-time interaction. These components can work in a self-paced structure or with a tight schedule set by the instructor. 

  1. Can a fully online model have both synchronous and asynchronous components? 

  1. What is the value of creating these types of classes when students won’t be interested in any of these models after the pandemic subsides? 
    Although students do generally choose Western because they want to be physically in Gunnison, academia has undergone a fundamental shift. Students are now acutely aware of how easily things can change on a global scale, and will forevermore expect a certain amount of flexibility around their learning modalities. Western does not need to become a major player in the online learning space; but they do need to demonstrate their ability to pivot and evolve as needed. In addition, online learning has distinct benefits for non-traditional students as well as students with disabilities.  

  1. Is there flexibility within these models for instructors to structure their classes in ways that work best for their discipline and subject matter? 
    Each of these models contains a significant amount of flexibility. The goal is not to prescribe a learning process or curriculum design. The goal is to provide a substantial enough definition that both students and instructors generally know what to expect. 

  1. Are these models (HyFlex, Flipped, Hybrid) just a phase?  
    Although online learning has struggled to gain traction at Western and other universities, these models of learning have been around for decades. Most industries have all but done away with instructor-led training in favor of online models that have been proven to be more effective at increasing knowledge retention and behavioral change. Of course, academic learning and on-the-job training are not the same thing. There are many reasons the traditional classroom remains by far the most popular learning model for institutions like Western. But these models are not a fad and as such we have the opportunity to leverage years of best practices that have already been developed. 

  2. I’ve taught with a flipped classroom model before, but didn’t have any online components. Does a flipped classroom have to have online components?  

No. Instructors may choose to have students interact with material in a variety of ways from something as simple to readings from a textbook to something as elaborate as a solo field trip. Online platforms like Canvas can be used very effectively to facilitate a flipped classroom model, but a flipped classroom does not required such a resource.. 


These online education definitions were developed by Western Colorado University's Online Education department and adopted by Academic Affairs on August 31st, 2020. 

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