There are many ways to describe blended learning. One of my favourites describes blended learning as a
“pedagogical approach that combines the effectiveness and socialization opportunities of the classroom with the technologically enhanced active learning possibilities of the online environment.”The Handbook of Blended Learning : Global Perspectives, Local Designs
I like this one because it goes beyond the mechanics of how blended learning works (for example: In blended learning some face to face time is replaced with online learning) and instead speaks to the strengths of both face to face and online learning and how they can be leveraged to expand opportunities for learning.
What does Blended Learning look like?
Blended learning can look a lot of different ways depending on learning outcomes, course content and pedagogical approaches. In the image below the circle represents blended learning. Click on the + signs to see examples of what blended learning might look like and how you can use VIU tools to support them. These examples will give you an idea of the wide range of ways that blended learning can be implemented. You can also access these examples in this document.
Note that these examples are intentionally “generic” and are solely intended to provide some insight into the range of blended learning options. These examples can also be accessed in this Google doc.
Why would you do it?
Benefits of blended learning have been identified for both faculty and students. Some of these include:
- “The opportunity to tap into a larger range of strategies and solve pedagogical problems attracts faculty to blended courses.”(UCF)
- When content is delivered in more than one way, students are more likely to have a learning experience that matches how they learn.
- Allows students to both prepare for and review learning experiences.
- Opens up class time for active learning and collaboration.
- Supports flexible learning because students can access course content at any time, in any place and at any time.
- Provides the space for students to meaningfully engage in course content outside of course time.
Things to Consider
Anytime we are making a pedagogical shift there are things we should consider. Shifting to blended learning is no exception. Here are a few things to think about if you are considering blended learning.
- Carefully consider the course learning outcomes and whether or not they can still be met in a blended learning mode.
- Look at the content in your course and decide which things would work best blended and which things will work best face to face.
- There may be small ways that you can incorporate blended learning into your course, but be aware that a full blended course redesign will take time.
- Who are your students? Time management skills can be even more important in blended learning than in other delivery modes. Is that something your students will be able to handle?
- What materials and activities do you already have that could be blended? What would you need to create? What materials and activities are created by others and available for you to use (e.g. Open Educational Resources)?
Top Tips When Implementing Blended Learning
- To avoid confusion, explain your reasoning and expectations very clearly to students at the beginning of the term.
- Asynchronous activities should be clearly laid out so that students know why the activity is important, what the learning goal is and how it fits into the synchronous learning that precedes or follows it.
- A well organised VIULearn course will help you and your students stay organised and on track.
- Engage in regular communication with your students and provide prompt feedback. This is especially important when you are not seeing your students as often.
- Design a course schedule that details and clearly identifies the different elements of the course.
- Be prepared for students to ask questions and seek clarification. One way to do this is to set up a forum in VIULearn where students can post questions. You can encourage other students to provide the answers if they have them.
- Teaching in Blended Learning Environments: Creating and Sustaining Communities of Inquiry [Book – Available to borrow from the CIEL Resource Library]
- Creating Online Learning Experiences: A Brief Guide to Online Courses, from Small and Private to Massive and Open [Open Text from BCampus]
- Blended Learning Toolkit (University of Central Florida) [Website]
- Blended Learning Pedagogy in Higher Education [6 page PDF]
And, as always, we encourage you to contact us for a conversation about this or any other teaching and learning topic.