What’s in a name?

I’ve been thinking lately about some of the terms that we use to describe various forms of teaching with the Internet. It seems to me that we use these terms somewhat interchangeably, at least in the literature about teaching online.

The Sloan Foundation published definitions of types of online courses that I have seen most often in the literature:

  • Online courses (80% or more of content delivered online)
  • Blended or hybrid (30-79% of content delivered online)
  • Web-enhanced (1-29% of content delivered online)

This breakout was initiallly helpful for me because it helped me to understand that there are different degrees of online-ness in courses.  I soon started to wonder, however, about the real difference in a course with 79% of content online versus a course with 80%.  Are those really courses really in separate categories?  Also is a course that has 20% of content delivered onsite, is that really a fully online course?  Is content delivery the key goal anyway?

I like Ko and Rossen’s distinctions based on coures activities rather than content delivery. It helps me to clarify at least in my mind Web enhanced courses really may only have support materials offered online, whereas blended requires both onsite and online activities.

What works for me then is to think of fully online courses as those that truly occur all online, without onsite meetings; blended courses as those that use both online and onsite components; and web-enhanced courses as, well, pretty much onsite courses that have attending and supporting materials available online, with maybe the occasional online activity.

So here’s the one that is currently stumpping me: the flipped classroom. From what I’ve been learning about it, the idea is to have the content delivery done online, likely in the form of a video lecture, as homework, and to bring the activities or the homework into the classroom.  I’ve read articles that suggest that the flipped classroom is a form of blended learning which would imply that some activities/interactions with others happen online, and I’m not sure that’s the case. Is the flipped classroom really a form of Web-enhanced learning?
Photo credit: Gatheringzero

It may sound like hair splitting, but it seems to me that the terms we use are important. They can potentially help us to communicate and to understand each other, or alternately if we are using the same terms to talk about different things or different terms to talk about the same thing, well it seems to me like the language could potentially contribute to misunderstandings. Isn’t it important for us to share a common language so that we can really discuss the issues?