Online Teaching & Learning Definitions

Last Updated: January 15, 2024
A woman speaks into her laptop while on a video call

You may hear different terminology as you begin online teaching. The following are some working definitions to help differentiate the terms used when discussing teaching leveraging technology.

University of Michigan Registrar defined instruction-mode definitions:

In-Person: Indicated by a (P) on the course listing, in-person classes are the traditional face-to-face classes. Instructors and students meet at a designated time in a designated place each week.

Online: Indicated by a (D) by the registrar, online classes do not meet in person. All learning activities take place online.  Online classes can be:

  • Synchronous: There are at least some designated times for students and instructors to meet simultaneously in a tool like Zoom. Synchronous classes will specify the day and time for meetings in the registrar. Online synchronous classes are generally structured more like an in-person class, except in a video conference format, however, there is often more asynchronous work as well. 
  • Asynchronous: There is no requirement for simultaneous meetings. Most of the interactions between students and instructors happen through other communication tools. Lectures may be pre-recorded. While video conferencing may be utilized, it is generally an optional component.

Hybrid: Indicted by an M by the registrar (for Mixed), these classes have both a required in-person component as well as an online component. Hybrid classes could meet once a month (rather than once a week), or have one class online and one class in person each week. Meeting days/times need to be specified.

Other Online Teaching Definitions:

  • Hy-flex: A course where students can choose on a day-by-day basis whether to attend class in person or via a synchronous videoconference session. Because Hyflex classes need to account for room capacity, they would be considered in-person. Currently, the University of Michigan does not have a specific indicator for hy-flex classes. 
  • Blended learning: While some people use “hybrid” and “blended” interchangeably, generally blended learning includes any kind of online component to supplement instruction. Even if a course does not reduce face-to-face meetings, maintaining and utilizing a Canvas course to extend the classroom indicates a blended learning experience. Blended learning takes advantage of online technology to enhance in-person classrooms.
  • Emergency Remote Teaching: Suddenly altering teaching modalities from in-person to online due to an emergency. Emergency remote teaching is a type of online teaching, however, it generally does not involve careful planning of instruction specifically for that modality.