Learning Environments: Types & Characteristics

Instructor: Jaclyn Scotto

Jaclyn is a high school English teacher and college professor. She has a doctorate in Education.

In education, there are three different types of learning environments: face-to-face, online, and hybrid. Each has its own specific characteristics that makes it unique. Read on to learn about the characteristics of each type of environment.

Learning Environment

Think about your past educational experiences. Most likely, the majority of your schooling took place in a traditional classroom. However, as technology continues to play a larger role in education, more types of learning environments have emerged during the 21st century.

Traditional Classroom
traditional classroom

The phrase learning environment refers to the way a classroom environment is set up. Learning environments can be traditional or virtual (or a combination of both). There are three learning environment categories: face-to-face, online, and hybrid.


Definition and Characteristics

Face-to-face, or traditional, learning occurs in person. This means that assignments, discussions, and activities occur in the classroom under the direction of an instructor.

Some of the characteristics of a face-to face learning environment are:

  1. Learning occurs synchronously in real time. This allows students to ask questions and get immediate feedback.
  2. The teacher is the leader of the class, guiding students through lessons. This is beneficial because students get one-on-one guidance, and it allows for differentiated instruction based on students' needs.
  3. The teacher and the students engage in personal communication daily. This permits teachers and students to forge relationships and build trust.


Ms. Smith's class occurs in a face-to-face environment. Her ninth grade math students come into her classroom every day for forty minutes. During that time, Ms. Smith teaches a lesson, engages students in discussion and activities, and assigns homework.


Definition and Characteristics

Online learning occurs via an internet-based platform. The teacher sets up lessons and assignments ahead of time, and students complete them independently.

Some of the characteristics of an online learning environment are:

  1. Learning can occur asynchronously. This means that students can log in to the online classroom at any time, regardless of whether or not other students or the teacher are logged in.
  2. Students work at their own pace based on the teacher's set due dates. This allows for student independence and reinforces student responsibility by placing the onus of work completion on the students.
  3. Students can reach out to the teacher (usually via email or phone) if they need assistance. Teachers are accessible to answer questions and respond to students' concerns. However, there may be a delay in response time, depending on when the teacher is logged in to the platform.


Mr. Wright's class takes place in an online environment. Before the beginning of the course, Mr. Wright uploaded assignments, discussion questions and assessments, each with their own due dates. Students are expected to turn in their work via the classroom portal. If students have questions for Mr. Wright, they can post questions on the discussion board or reach out to him via email.


Definition and Characteristics

Hybrid learning utilizes both face-to-face and online learning environments. Students are scheduled to meet for class in-person, but are also required to do work independently online.

Some of the characteristics of a hybrid learning environment are:

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