Learning and teaching meta-definitions at the University of Glasgow

We are defining what the following terms mean for us at the University of Glasgow, so that we may use a common language:

On-campus Learning

Blended Learning

Hybrid Learning

Online Learning

Note: we are using the recently coined term 'on-ground' as the counterpart to 'on-line'. On-ground refers to physical locations.

Different definitions for these terms can be found across the sector and in the literature, but these are ours.

Active Learning (over-arching principle of all our teaching)

Active Learning has been the underlying tenet for all learning & teaching approaches for some years, and is at the core of the Learning & Teaching Strategy 2021-25.

UofG has the Active Learning Principles (VP Learning & Teaching, 2018), which are based on evidence that Active Learning should help students to:

  1. engage more deeply with the course material in the discipline
  2. learn more effectively
  3. perform better in assessment
  4. develop more fully as critical thinkers

Active learning is…

“Any instructional method that engages students in the learning process … [it] requires students to do meaningful learning activities and think about what they are doing.” (Prince, 2004, p.233, citing Bonwell and Eison 1991).  Interaction between staff and students enhances learning and student satisfaction (Huxham, 2005; Kuh & Hu, 2001)

Active learning enhances learning (reduces misconceptions, leads to deeper learning) (Gibbs, 2010; Michael, 2006)

Active learning spaces enhance academic performance (Chiu & Cheng, 2016)

Active learning in practice

In the sector, the emphasis on active learning and the use of technology in achieving active learning, has evolved to the extent that blended learning is increasingly referred to as ‘active blended learning’ (Howe and Armellini, 2020).

Reflections across the Colleges on experiences during the pandemic show that those online teaching approaches that foster student engagement and activity were most successful, and are to be continued in the future. Most notable amongst those is the use of pre-recorded lectures/lecture chunks augmented with live student interaction such as Q&A sessions or watch parties. This is one example of empirical evidence of the effectiveness of active learning.

  • Blended Learning (on-ground on-campus with technology & on-ground on-campus with online) i.e. technology is not necessarily online e.g. polling
  • Hybrid Learning (on-ground on-campus and online cohort together) e.g. remote students via technology with on-campus students
  • Online Learning (on-ground anywhere with online, e.g.  students may be on campus for parts of their studies, and parts online) has Online Distance Learning as a specific subset (online distance off-campus only)


1. On-campus Learning

1.1 On-ground no technology

1.2 Blended: 1.2.1 On-ground with technology / 1.2.2 On-ground with online

On-campus (on-ground) Learning takes place in the physical location of our campuses. However, it is likely that learning on campus will include the use of technology to enhance the learning, and thus on-ground learning is usually blended learning. The latter includes technology used in the classroom which is localised (e.g. polling software), and also technology which is online (e.g. session preparation with online videos/resources for classroom seminar)




Lab-based, practical, can only be done on campus with specialised

[here link to timetabling categories, and how to book those]

  • Social and in-person interaction with peers and educators
  • Strengthen feeling of belonging
  • Physical and temporal structure benefits students
  • Campus also includes a variety of informal learning spaces that are important for student experience
  • More ‘authentic’ learning experience, with ability to engage physically rather than virtually with learning resources, peers and teachers.

Lorås, M., Hjelsvold, R., Nykvist, S.S., Bahmani, A. and Krokan, A. (2020) ‘The Hidden Benefits of the Campus-What the Covid-19 Pandemic Can Teach Us About the Computing Learning Environment’, Norsk IKT-konferanse for forskning og utdanning (No. 4).

1.2 Blended Learning

1.2.1 On-ground with technology / 1.2.2 On-ground with online

Blended Learning

is a “thoughtful integration of classroom face-to-face learning experiences with online learning experiences” (Garrison and Kanuka, 2004, p.96-7). It is not just about the “right mix of technologies or increasing access to learning,” but is “about rethinking and redesigning the teaching and learning relationship” (ibid., p. 99).

Blended approaches “use multiple methods to deliver learning combining face-to-face interactions with online activities…The flexibility inherent in this form of delivery enables teachers to rethink where and how they focus learning activity and students to develop self-directed learning skills and digital literacies” (AdvanceHE, 2020).

“The real test of blended learning is the effective integration of the two main components (face-to-face and Internet technology) such that we are not just adding on to the existing dominant approach or method.” (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004, p.97)




Interactive voting: Using Mentimeter for polling in an on-campus classroom; this may or may not be combined with the technique of ‘peer instruction’ (Mazur) where learners attempt the question individually and vote, before discussing it in a pair, and voting again. This process can help resolve misconceptions.

Flipped classroom; students learn new information online, in their own time, and apply that information in a face-to-face or synchronous context in the context of problem solving and discussion. Variations of active blended learning include team-based learning (TBL) or the SCALE-UP technique.

During online learning, students engage in off-screen activities in their own environments

  • Increases active learning
  • Encourages independent and self-directed learning
  • Encourages cooperative learning and discussion.
  • Enhances student performance (it can also close the performance gap between non-traditional and traditional learners
  • Improves accessibility thus fosters equity

AdvanceHE (2020) Blended Learning.

Garrison, D. R. and Kanuka, H. (2004) ‘Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education’, The internet and higher education, 7(2), pp.95-105.

Giannakos, M.N., Krogstie, J. and Sampson, D. (2018) ‘Putting flipped classroom into practice: A comprehensive review of empirical research’, in: Digital technologies: Sustainable innovations for improving teaching and learning, pp.27-44.

Howe, R., and Armellini, A. (2020) Raising the quality curve at Northampton. Jisc Building Digital Capability and Digital Experience Insights Community of Practice Event, 21 May 2020.

2. Hybrid Learning

Simultaneous On-campus Learning and Online Learning

Hybrid Learning is “designed to be delivered both onsite and remotely, allowing students to move between the two methods of delivery seamlessly.” (QAA, 2020, p.3)

Online and on-campus students are considered as one cohort and individual students are able to move between online and on-campus learning activities. Hybrid learning is about fluid spaces (physical or virtual) where learning activities are taking place either online or in classroom depending on circumstances.

“Hybrid  Learning  Space  is  a  context  of  learning  that  not  only  moves  beyond  distinctions  between  online  and  offline  spaces,  but  also  often  challenges  divisions  between  teacher/student roles, formal/informal contexts, analogue/digital communication/media and other traditionally separable dimensions.” (Hilli et al., 2019, p.67) Hybridity seeks to “dissolve the dichotomies  between,  for  instance,  offline/online,  digital/analogue  or  formal/informal  that  currently  exist  in  higher  education.” (ibid.)

In previous decades, the term has been used synonymously with blended learning in the literature; however the emphasis has shifted to connecting remote and on-campus learners.

Please note: Although the definition and evidence of use is included here, hybrid learning needs very careful design and facilitation as well as particular technology for it to be an effective and inclusive learning experience.  This approach is not likely to feature in teaching plans in the next 12-18 months, but may be the subject of some piloting in particular circumstances in the session 2021-22. It may, however, become necessary in certain situation to accommodate remote learning e.g. if a handful of students in a cohort are unable to make it to Glasgow owing to international travel restrictions. We already offer some courses in this mode (e.g. in Maths PGT and in TRS), which are likely to continue as hybrid.




The hybrid virtual classroom; students can participate in a learning activity from on-campus or remote locations, synchronously.

  • Students “construct their own ways of engaging…”, … “with the onsite or digital learning activities.” (QAA, 2020, p.3)
  • More flexible, engaged learning environment.
  • Provides the highest level of accessibility and ownership of the learning experience.

QAA (2020) Building a taxonomy for digital learning.

Hilli, C., Nørgård, R.T. and Aaen, J.H. (2019) ‘Designing Hybrid Learning Spaces in Higher Education’, Dansk universitetspædagogisk tidsskrift, vol. 15, no. 27, pp. 66-82.

Raes, A., Detienne, L., Windey, I. and Depaepe, F. (2020) ‘A systematic literature review on synchronous hybrid learning: gaps identified’, Learning Environments Research, 23(3), pp.269-290.

3. Online Learning, including Online Distance Learning

3.1 On-ground (in any physical location) anywhere with online

Online Learning “has been generally defined as the bridging of the space between the teacher and the student through the use of web-based technologies” (Miller, Topper and Richardson, 2016, p.4, referencing Lee, 2017; Moore et al., 2011; Ryan et al.,2016).

“The term online works well as an umbrella term as it is in common use beyond the UK higher education sector; it focuses on the connectivity of the learning, teaching and support delivery methods […].” (QAA, 2020, p.2)

The term technology-enhanced learning has also been used synonymously with the term ‘eLearning’ as an umbrella term to encompass any type of learning that is supported partly or fully online; this includes blended learning, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and e-Assessment (Gordon, 2014).




Social learning communities (e.g lecture watch parties)

Q&A format discussion forums in Moodle or Teams

Interactive case studies with instant feedback built in, using Moodle Book or Sway

Blog or Teams site to critically review eBooks or podcasts

H5P interactive quizzes and learning objects to test knowledge.

Interactive teaching videos: short didactive video, split up with quiz questions and polls. Students may be on campus  for parts of their studies, and parts online.

  • Flexibility
  • Reaching students at point of need e.g. overseas learners. These could include students on international placements as well as distance learners.
  • Can be enabler for participation due to the multi-modal ways for engagement

Singh, V. and Thurman, A. (2019) ‘How many ways can we define online learning? A systematic literature review of definitions of online learning (1988-2018)’, American Journal of Distance Education, 33:4, 289-306.

Gordon, N. (2014) Flexible Pedagogies: Technology Enhanced Learning, AdvanceHE.

3.2 Online distance off-campus only

Online Distance Learning (ODL) at UofG is a term used to describe learners who study at a distance i.e. away from campus, through online learning and connectivity. These students may be located anywhere and are usually not on-campus for any part of their studies. They may also access their learning at anytime.




Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)


LinkedIn Learning

Fully online distance learning Masters programmes

  • Flexibility, and reaching students at point of need (see above)
  • Personalisation of learning pathways
  • Online learning materials can be reused for blended approaches

Selvaratnam, R.M. and Sankey, M. (2021) ‘An integrative literature review of the implementation of micro-credentials in higher education: Implications for practice in Australasia’, Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 12(1), pp.1-17.

Gordon, N. (2014) Flexible Pedagogies: Technology Enhanced Learning, AdvanceHE.