5 Disadvantages of Blended Learning That Educators and Students Should Know

Blended learning is often touted as giving learners “the best of both worlds,” whether in a classroom or an academic or corporate setting. However, this model isn’t always one-size-fits-all. Despite the many rewards, there are some downsides to it, too.

Blended learning is often touted as giving learners “the best of both worlds,” whether in a classroom or an academic or corporate setting. However, this model isn’t always one-size-fits-all. Despite the many rewards, there are some downsides to it, too.

Whether you’re an educator, L&D specialist, instructional designer, or student, this guide lays out the disadvantages of blended learning so you can pick the right training modality for your specific needs.

First up: a quick definition of blended learning.

What is blended learning?

Blended (or hybrid) learning combines synchronous and asynchronous training activities to create an engaging learning environment that offers the best of both worlds.

For instance, learners may complete self-paced, online modules like elearning courses, digital resources, and quizzes. During the same program, they may also participate in live instructor-led classroom sessions (either in person or virtually).

Within blended learning, there are several types. These include:

  • Flipped model – Learners participate in live classroom sessions (virtual or in person) and then work through on-demand digital learning materials that they usually access through an LMS.
  • Flex model – Learners can choose between synchronous and asynchronous learning activities, depending on which works best for them. They have an instructor when needed, but the learner steers the ship.
  • Rotation model – Learners are divided into groups, and they rotate between self-guided and instructor-led lessons (decided on by the educator).

The case for blended learning is that learners can benefit from the strengths of elearning, such as high engagement and knowledge retention rates. At the same time, they keep the advantages of instructor interaction and social learning environments.

While we all know the benefits of BL, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There are also some drawbacks to this approach, which we will explore in the next section.

In fact, with 8 out of 10 people now working hybrid or remote, this training approach could see further decline in the near future.

Main disadvantages of blended learning

While there’s plenty to like about blended learning, there are also some pitfalls. And understanding these downsides is essential when deciding whether hybrid learning is the right choice for your learners (or for yourself as a student).

To help you with this, we look at five of the biggest disadvantages of blended learning.

List of 5 key disadvantages of blended learning.

1. Blended learning requires more organization and scheduling

One of the main disadvantages of hybrid learning is that it’s time-consuming to manage. While this won’t impact your decision too much as a learner, it’s an important consideration for educators and L&D teams.

For these programs to be effective, instructors need to be organized. More so than with in-person or elearning training.

Why? Well, the program needs to be clearly laid out for learners so they know how their next lesson will be delivered, what they need to do, and how they can get support.

For instance, learners sometimes need to complete online modules before they come to live sessions or complete assessments afterward. Instructors need to know what’s coming next so they can keep learners on the right track.

If not, the learning experience can become confusing and disjointed. Not to mention, instructors can be left feeling burnt out and frustrated.

This also means more organization on the learner’s part, too. They need to keep track of when and where their next lesson will take place in a way they don’t have to with in-person or elearning modes.

What’s more, it usually involves extra work for educators, as they need to update their current plans and strike the right balance between online and instructor-led learning activities.

2. You may experience some technical road bumps

If you’re moving from an in-person classroom model, you can expect some technical teething problems as instructors and students get used to new platforms.

This is only natural, but it can cause distractions and frustrations for learners and educators alike. As a result, it’s worth considering if you’re on the fence about going down the blended route.

With this in mind, there are some cases where it doesn’t make sense to introduce hybrid learning. These include:

  • High-stakes training, like end-of-year assessments or certification courses. Switching to a new model and having added tech difficulties to worry about can negatively impact learners and affect their results.
  • Learning programs where a large portion of the audience doesn’t feel confident using elearning technology.
  • Urgent or time-sensitive training programs where there is limited time to train learners on new technology and support them during the learning curve.

3. AI concerns are mounting

This one is an especially pressing issue for educators in academic settings like schools, colleges, and universities.

AI is throwing a spanner in the works for teachers worldwide as more students use it to complete their assignments and tests. This opens the doors for plagiarism issues and makes it increasingly challenging for educators to identify if students have completed their work alone or with the help of AI.

Since blended learning has a strong digital component, this can make it harder for teachers to monitor AI use and plagiarism.

What’s more, AI detection software is notoriously unreliable, meaning educators are having an increasingly tough time assessing students.

In live classrooms, teachers can use software to check if learners are using AI and use other assessment means to evaluate student progress. And with elearning courses, instructors can check learner progress through timed quizzes and assessments (making it harder for students to use AI.)

With blended learning, however, these checks are harder to enforce.

4. Hybrid learning offers less immediate feedback and support

It’s often said that hybrid learning offers the best of both worlds. But the flip side is that you don’t get the full benefits of either live training or elearning.

Let’s start by comparing it to instructor-led training (online or face-to-face). In comparison, blended learning offers students less support from their instructors. As a result, learners receive less immediate feedback and lose the benefits of learning from their peers.

More worryingly, it involves less real-time instruction. This can impact some students who need extra support from their teacher, causing them to fall behind or lose motivation.

5. Reduced social learning opportunities

Social cognitive learning theory teaches us that social interactions and environmental factors impact learning outcomes.

A big part of the learning process comes from watching our peers do something and repeating it.

Classroom settings are excellent places for peer-to-peer learning, with many students learning through interacting with their classmates. This social element not only helps learners absorb new knowledge, it also builds key soft skills like communication and collaboration.

Since hybrid learning has fewer peer-to-peer learning opportunities, some students may miss out on the benefits of this social aspect.

Final thoughts

As instructional designers, educators, and L&D pros, we hear a lot about the rewards we can reap from hybrid training models. However, it’s just as important to understand these disadvantages.

By knowing its limitations, we’re in a better position to decide if it’s the right mode for our learners, educational content, and instructors. This results in better outcomes for everyone involved.

Do you use blended learning in your organization? What are the biggest pros and cons you’ve noticed?

Nicola Wiley

By Nicola Wylie

Nicola Wylie is a learning industry expert who loves sharing in-depth insights into the latest trends, challenges, and technologies.