What is remote or remote-hybrid learning?

This article is part of a larger series on Remote Teaching Resources. See related Faculty Guide for Moving to Remote-Hybrid Learning. For additional support, please contact

This article attempts to elucidate terms like remote learning, online learning, and remote-hybrid classes that have been used in recent announcements and community meetings but have not been clearly defined. 


  • When the COVID-19 pandemic struck Southern California mid-March, many institutions, including APU, had to cancel all in-person classes and mandated that faculty move their courses online to help prevent the spread of the virus.
  • According to many leaders in the academic community, what happened in the immediate few weeks was emergency remote teaching, not online learning.  Susan Grajek of Educause, the association of education technologists, distinguishes remote learning from “well-considered, durable online learning.” Remote learning, she said, is a “quick, ad hoc, low-fidelity mitigation strategy.”
  • The differences are subtle but substantive: Online learning is like hosting a formal party for 50 people at your house that you've spent months carefully planning and preparing, and emergency remote learning is like having 50 people show up at your house hungry with only a few hours notice. We're now a few months into the pandemic, and it's no longer an emergency. What APU is offering students this fall is remote learning.

Remote Learning vs. Online Learning

  • Remote learning strives to recreate the in-person classroom experience in a virtual environment with a mix of synchronous (real-time video conference meetings) and asynchronous (self-paced learning activities in Canvas) elements to maximize student engagement and faculty interaction. As with in-person classes, remote learning requires students to attend class via a video conference tool like Zoom on a regularly scheduled basis.
  • Online learning, on the other hand, is based on decades of research studies, theories, models, standards, and evaluation criteria. Online learning transcends time and space, in which students can learn anytime and anywhere. Moreover, online learning courses (or online courses) are carefully designed and developed by professional instructional designers and faculty subject-matter experts and undergo a systematic approval process by the institution and the accreditor. Remote classes do not need to go through an approval process like online, blended, and distance learning classes.
  • If emergency remote learning is like hosting 50 hungry people with only a few hours' notice, then remote learning is like having a few days to plan and prepare. It’s not a lot of time to prepare many dishes, but it’s enough time to host a party with sufficient food and enjoyable ambiance.

Remote-Hybrid Learning 

  • Remote-hybrid is APU’s unique approach to remote learning. In a remote-hybrid course, faculty employ a mix of synchronous (live video conference meetings) and asynchronous (self-paced learning activities in Canvas) elements to maximize student engagement.
  • Here are some general characteristics of remote-hybrid classes: 
    • Classes do not meet on campus.
    • Classes continue to have their normally scheduled day and time. 
    • Some class meetings are conducted live (synchronous) with faculty and students together. All students will attend the live sessions remotely, as scheduled, and student attendance is required.
    • Partial course material may be covered asynchronously with an expectation that students utilize some scheduled in-class and/or out-of-class time to prepare for live class guided lecture/discussion/activities.
    • Faculty teach their course by streaming from a professional location, which could include a dedicated studio, a modified classroom, or an office. 
    • All essential course materials, such as announcements, readings, assignments, quizzes, and related content, are available in the Canvas course.
    • Unlike other modalities, remote courses do not need faculty-governance approval for a modality change from in-person. 
    • Schools or departments may differ in norms and guidelines for their student populations.

Remote Learning in Comparison with Other Instructional Modalities

  • Learn more about APU official instructional modalities.

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