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Blended Learning is “the thoughtful integration of classroom face-to-face learning experiences with online learning experiences” (Garrison and Kanuka, 2004). 

The main affordances attributed to blended learning are: 

  • Communities of inquiry: blended learning can help to create a community of inquiry by providing space where reflection, dialogue and interaction can take place at any time and via diverse media. 
  • Student responsibility: students take responsibility for engaging with learning materials and with active learning (e.g. shared responsibility for construction of meaning and understanding during an online discussion). 
  • Access and flexibility: students and tutors have more choice in when, where and how they will interact with materials, discussions and activities; accessibility can be built in (e.g. transcripts, screen-reader-friendly text, documents that can be reformatted). 
  • Long-term efficiencies: digital resources can: replace repetitive face-to-face instruction; allow students to review information multiple times; test students on their understanding; provide reusable learning objects and templates, etc. 

Garrison and Kanuka (2004), Vaughan et al (2013). 

What are the drawbacks? 

As with most learning innovations, time is the main issue for those wishing to implement blended learning. It can be time-consuming to develop a blended module, create the resources, design assessments, enculturate students into their new community of inquiry, and evaluate the results. If designed carefully, however, blended learning’s short-term losses could lead to long-term time savings. 

Best Practice Tips

The General Approach:

  • Have a look at the case studies and research, and perhaps find some scholarship in blended learning applied to your particular subject area. 
  • Make sure that you are clear about the purpose of implementing blended learning: this could involve learning outcomes, key skills, developmental goals for your departments’ students, university strategy, accrediting body requirements, etc. 
  • Have a chat with your faculty’s learning technologist about what you are trying to achieve, and the pedagogical and practical aspects of achieving it. 
  • Develop a plan (however general or specific) for designing your blended learning, taking into account any new resources, guides for students and/or digital spaces that you need to create. 
  • Ensure you have the correct balance between face-to-face and online learning; too much of one will negate the other as learners may forget, particularly the online component. 
  • Take into account your learners’ digital skills. You may have to teach them how to use the online components of the course. 
  • Ensure there are clear signposts, so learners know what they need to do online between face-to-face sessions. 
  • Think about how you will evaluate the learning at the end. 

Setting the scene:

  • People can be resistant to change, so make sure that you explain to the students what you are doing, how they should approach blended learning, and your expectations for what they need to do. 

Creating/Finding Resources: 

  • You should use a variety of resources (audio, text, video) as this can aid accessibility.  While you may want to create all of your own resources from scratch, there are many great resources already out there, so it is worthwhile researching what is already available and then incorporating these resources into your course.  

Video:

  • If you do create your own videos, keep them short; no more than 15 minutes (Herreid & Schiller, 2013). 

Resources and Further Reading

HEA Blended Learning Toolkit 

Garrison, D.R. and Kanuka, H., 2004. Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The internet and higher education, 7(2), pp.95-105. 

Herreid, C.F and Schiller, N.A. (2013) Case Studies and the Flipped Classroom. Journal of College and Science Teaching, 42(5), 62-66 

Vaughan, N.D., Cleveland-Innes, M. and Garrison, D.R., 2013. Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Athabasca University Press.