Blended learning

Blended learning is a term commonly used to describe the combined use of face-to-face and online learning environments (Bonk & Graham, 2006).

At SCU the term refers to a blending of teaching approaches to provide equitable learning experiences regardless of location or mode of study.

Blended learning can take different forms:

  • media blends (e.g. a Blackboard Collaborate tutorial with student summaries provided in wikis, blogs, or other social networking tools)
  • resource blends (e.g. text-based readings supported by lecturer’s audio summaries, online journals, websites, video clips and/or simulations)
  • activity blends (e.g. clinical laboratory workshop or tutorial with synchronous and asynchronous communications or online quizzes)
  • mode blends combining on-campus, multi-campus and off-campus student activities (e.g. an online unit which has negotiated a two-day face-to-face workshop or residential activity for all students).

Steps to blended learning

1. Decide the fitness for purpose

Generally, people choose blended learning for three reasons:

  • improved pedagogy
  • increased access and flexibility
  • increased cost-effectiveness (Bonk & Graham, 2006).

Check the key learning objectives for your unit. Is your key driver for blended learning to improve student learning? Are you improving access to knowledge, such as designing for the integration of experts, diverse types of media and resources? Find out the size and distribution of your class, and the experiences of the teaching team.

2. Consider the diversity of your learners

Does blended learning support your students' access to content and interaction regardless of their location, background and computer literacy? Do learners need opportunities to encounter multiple perspectives through your unit? Is there support for the development of learners’ independent learning skills? Are learners able to be self-directed in choosing and deciding how/what to study? If you have included on-campus elements in the unit design, have you made this equitable and fair for all students?

3. Decide on the appropriate blend for your context

Elements of student engagement for inclusion in blended learning designs

Live in-person

Synchronous online collaboration

Asynchronous online collaboration

Self-paced asynchronous

  • on-campus lectures and tutorials
  • on-campus labs and workshops
  • residentials and intensives
  • field trips and workplace learning
  • live online class
  • online chat/Skype video conferencing
  • Blackboard Collaborate, Twitter
  • online discussion boards
  • email
  • blogs, wikis
  • online self-study tutorials
  • simulations
  • online self-assessments
  • recorded lectures and webinars
  • audio or video clips

Adapted from webjunction.org/blendedguide, (2007), p. 4

4. Use technology to promote a sense of community

It is not so much the technology tools employed but the active engagement of people that makes blended learning a success. For this to happen, some issues need to be addressed, including:

  • where possible, limit live online classes to one hour or less and provide learning support
  • use recordings to explain core concepts or issues (15–20 minute segments can be effective)
  • build in interactivity online by using polls, multiple-choice questions and chat features to keep learners engaged and help them reinforce their understanding
  • build in fun and humour whenever possible, let your personality shine through
  • support conversational interaction between individual learners and groups
  • provide feedback to support social networks and to extend connections in the group.

Start small and blend progressively

Identify your knowledge and skills gaps for developing and managing a blended learning unit. Become familiar with or willing to learn about technologies and approaches to blended learning. Conscientiously manage the volume of content in order to allow students time to reflect upon and process their learning. Ensure learners are at ease using technologies that are part of your blended learning design. Decide how you will encourage your learners to make time to engage and participate.

Monitor, evaluate, review and revise

Regularly reflect on the effectiveness of your design. Ensure you routinely archive, update and improve materials and learning activities.

From the student perspective, the value of blended learning includes:

  • opportunities for active learning; opportunities to engage and interact with the content
  • diversity of learning activities to match a range of learning styles
  • different ways available to interact with academic staff and students
  • opportunity to link learning across course boundaries and join academic/scholarly communities
  • increased skill in using electronic tools and resources and in developing independent learning skills
  • flexibility in use of time and resources
  • access to supplementary learning resources to ensure adequate preparation for study (formal or informal).


From the staff perspective, the value of blended learning includes:

  • opportunities to work with students individually and in smaller groups
  • efficiency in presenting basic concepts required to establish and maintain a baseline for all students
  • opportunity to link own expertise and research with teaching
  • potential for using face-to-face sessions for learning experiences that are critical to the unit
  • opportunity to respond to a diversity of student needs and capabilities
  • improved quality of interaction with students, supporting a community of inquiry
  • possibilities for providing metacognitive commentary of what and why students are learning
  • learning to use electronic tools and resources effectively.

Resources

The blended learning toolkit - https://blendedtoolkit.wisc.edu/

Sources

Bonk, C. & Graham, C. (2006). Handbook of blended learning: Global perspectives, local designs. San Francisco: Pfeiffer Publishing.

Garrison, R. (2009). Exploring the dynamics of a blended learning experience. Keynote presentation at the Blended Learning Conference, University of Hertfordshire, UK. [Online]. Available from: https://www.studynet1.herts.ac.uk/ltic.nsf/Teaching+Documents/BA9CAD62689DB1CD80257E96004AD35C/$FILE/Keynote_Randy_Garrison.pdf

Griffith Institute for Higher Education (n.d.) Good practice guide on blended learning. [Online]. Available from: https://www.griffith.edu.au/learning-futures/pdf/gihe_tipsheet_web_bl.pdf

WebJunction (2007). Blended learning guide. [Online]. Available from: Computer Library Centre http://www.webjunction.org/content/dam/WebJunction/Documents/webJunction/Blended-Learning-Guide.pdf


(Please note - it's better to refer to the Online version rather than export, as it's always up to date)