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Blended vs. Online

In today’s educational environment, “online” and “blended” mean different things. Here’s NIU’s description.


  • Online Courses are good choices for people seeking flexible scheduling because much of the work can be completed wherever the student can find the time and connectivity needed.  At NIU, we follow the guidelines set forth by the Higher Learning Commission and define an online course "as one in which 75% or more of the instruction is offered by distance education.“  NIU’s online courses are designed by content and technology experts who follow the most current and rigorous quality standards.  At NIU, online learning is not impersonal. Each course uses technology-enhanced approaches, such as online discussions, small group activities and, blogs.

    However, online courses, even those marked 100% online, can require students to participate in synchronous meetings meaning that all students have to be online at a specific date and time. Students considering online courses should read the Notes published with the course section description on myNIU to check for the requirements of synchronous sessions.

  • Online Programs have a majority of their courses meeting the online definition described above. Online programs may even have some courses that are totally delivered in a face to face format or blended format (see definition below).. This is often found in programs that require lab, clinical, field and/or studio work.   Students considering such programs should read the requirements of the program carefully and ask the program chair or coordinator about any requirements to attend sessions in person.

“BLENDED” or “online with 25% or less of content in face-to-face meetings”

  • Blended Courses have 50% to 75% of their content delivered online and require some face-to-face meetings. Programs offered through NIU's Online and Regional Academics office schedule their face-to-face sessions at one of our state-of-the-art NIU Outreach Centers (Hoffman Estates, Naperville and Rockford), or at other locations across the northern Illinois region.  Face-to-face gatherings allow you to work more closely with your professor, your peers, or visiting experts while much of the course is delivered online to give you more flexibility in scheduling. Students living far from the planned meeting site should ask the program chair, the instructor or the adviser if there are alternative ways to attend the face to face sessions using technology. These discussions should take place before enrolling in a program or a course to avoid barriers to program completion.
  • Blended Programs have more than 50% of their courses offered as blended courses and/or traditional face-to-face classes. Many of these programs require field, studio or lab work that must be completed at a specific location. Students considering such programs should read the requirements of the program carefully and ask the program chair or coordinator about the requirements to attend sessions in person or to enroll in face-to-face courses.

“WEB-ENHANCED” COURSES: “some content is delivered online but not more than 50%.”

Courses with less than 50% of the content delivered in an online format are called web-enhanced and will not be listed as an online or blended course. The notes section in myNIU will describe the percentage of coursework that will be delivered online. Web-enhanced courses can be part of a program considered an online program as described above.