RISE’s Professor David Hopkins and Dr Antony Mullen, along with Dr Steve Burton of Leeds Beckett University, recently met to discuss our global research investigation into digital pedagogy.

During the meeting, the team realised that much of the discussion around online learning (particularly in media commentary around teaching online during the pandemic) used terms quite loosely and without precise definition.

To tackle this, we developed a diagram which mapped out the different modes of online learning and how they interact.

This was accompanied by a list of key terms and definitions, intended to help establish a mutual understanding among our research team and the interviewees taking part in our project.


Digital lea


Asynchronous online learning – refers to pre-prepared, pre-recorded learning materials which are designed and created by the teacher and made available online. The student accesses the material in their own time, without the teacher present.

Synchronous online learning – is when the teacher is delivering the lesson ‘live’ and the students are online, watching and listening in real time as the lesson is taught.

Hybrid online learning – a hybrid approach is when the teaching is delivered in real time, but the students have a choice between face-to-face and synchronous online learning.

Blended online learning – blended online learning is an approach which combines one or more of the approaches outlined above with other approaches, such as traditional face-to-face teaching.


We hope that this will provide some conceptual clarity to discussions of online learning. We invite those engaged in the field of digital learning, in whatever capacity, to send their thoughts and responses to our diagram.




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