Managing Blended Courses: Balancing Asynchronous & Synchronous Learning

Blended courses (also referred to as hybrid courses) are learning environments where a portion of the traditional face-to-face instruction is delivered online.

How much of the face-to-face instruction should be delivered online? This question will vary by class, discipline, and learning objectives. In balancing what portion of instruction will take place in the physical face-to-face classroom and online, faculty are tasked to identify and select which learning activities, content delivery mechanisms, and student interactions take place in real-time (synchronous) primarily during face-to-face meetings and which activities take place online outside of class at any given time (asynchronous). This guide is intended to assist faculty in determining what balance of blended learning instruction is optimal for learning.

Class meets 3 times per Week

Group A
Group B
Group C

Class meets 2 times per Week

Group A
Group B
Day 1
Day 2

General Considerations

  1. Prior to identifying and selecting which instructional activities will take place face-to-face and online as well as synchronously and asynchronously, determine what is going to be the best use of class time during face-to-face instruction. For example, in a blended face-to-face course scenario, you may determine that in-class session will be dedicated for delivering lectures, facilitating discussions, and proctoring exams while the online portion may be dedicated for managing guided discussions and delivering short reading quizzes or other formative assessments.
  2. Historically, the online environment has been ideal for delivering and facilitating asynchronous instructional activities and interactions. This adds flexibility for students because they can work at their own pace and are not limited to a specified block of time nor physical space. However, online environments can include real-time synchronous learning opportunities. For example, in a blended online course scenario, you may deliver live lectures and offer live virtual office hours using Zoom while most other activities such as course assignments and exams also take place online. The in-person component may be dedicated to hands-on labs or simply work time on course projects.
  3. Ensure that both face-to-face and online connect with each other.
  4. How can I prepare students for hybrid learning?
    • Explain the rationale for using a hybrid approach and list the learning benefits (expect some resistance as students are pushed out of their learning comfort zones).
    • Provide an orientation to the technology required in the course and inform students of where to go for additional support.
    • Start with a "low stakes" assignment to familiarize students with what is expected.
    • Discuss time management strategies and communicate expected time-on-task for online activities.
    • Have students create a learning plan for the course.
    • Explain how students will be assessed and what kind of feedback they can expect from you and their peers.
    • Provide structure for online activities. For discussions, assign students to respond to certain prompts/posts, or for peer feedback, provide guidelines or a rubric.

Planning and Preparation: Getting Started with Blended Learning

Designing a blended course requires planning time and several decision-making points as you balance which instructional activities take place in-person and online with the addition of asynchronous and synchronous interactions that take occur in those environments.

  1. On this website, you will find three worksheets that will be very helpful as you plan your concurrent hybrid course.
  2. Explore using Template D in Canvas. It is best structured for organizing course materials for hybrid classes. To utilize Template D, follow these steps:
    • Refer to the course schedule document to distinguish face-to-face and online instructional activities.
    • The Modules section contains pre-made Canvas course pages that can be used to identify and describe face-to-face and online activities, resources, and general expectations.
    • Login to Canvas at
    • From the main global menu on the left, click on Commons.
    • Type in Template D
    • Select the option for Template D: Face-2-Face & Blended Environments.
    • On the right, select the Import/Download option.
    • In the pop-up panel, place a check mark next to the course you want to copy the template over to and select Import into Course.
  3. If you select Zoom to deliver live online synchronous sessions, it is recommended that you preschedule all class sessions through the Zoom Canvas interface prior to the start of the term. To get started, view the helpful guide on the Zoom resource page on Canvas guidance. Note: Zoom has a simple interface that allows you easily to share your screen, move into breakout rooms and monitor chat questions.
  4. Consider running a practice Zoom session with a colleague or family member to ensure you are comfortable with the virtual meeting environment and available features.
  5. Prepare a course schedule that distinguishes which activities take place in-person and take place online and provide it to students ahead of time. Consider adding the schedule to your PPT slides.
  6. If you will be facilitating group discussions, consider setting up Zoom Breakout Rooms prior to class. Refer to this helpful Zoom guide on how to set up Breakout Rooms. Note: breakout rooms will only be utilized for online students. Due to feedback issues, in-person students will not be able to participate in breakout rooms with online students.

Planning for the In-Class Learning Activities

Consider the following ideas as you select and design specific online instructional activities:

  1. Work collaboratively: Editable Canvas pages, Canvas groups, and blogs allow students to collaborate in a flexible manner with fewer time and space restrictions. Have students compile a course glossary together, or work in groups to produce a proposal. Collaborative writing exposes students to various writing styles and approaches and provides them with more feedback on their own writing and ideas.
  2. Prepare for in-class activities: In addition to assigning readings, providing some course content online through video tutorials or documentaries, for example, allows students to preview course material visually. Requiring students to take an online quiz before attending class can be a source of motivation while providing instant feedback regarding their understanding of the material.
  3. Engage all students in discussions: Offering students the opportunity to discuss online accommodates a variety of learning preferences. Asynchronous discussions allow students time to think and reflect before responding. Online discussions are also documented so students and instructors can always view, evaluate, and build on contributions.
  4. Develop self-assessment and peer assessment skills: Online assessment tools facilitate ease in giving and receiving feedback. Assignments can be posted online, and students can post instant responses or email their feedback.