Initial Thoughts on Blended Learning – BlendKit2014

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Online education may be an umbrella term for  different learning formats and blended learning is one of them. Being interested in online and distance education, I signed up to  BlendedKit 2014 MOOC, so that I could learn  more about course design and characteristics of what makes a blended learning course successful.

Two main questions to take into consideration are:

1- Which course components will take place online and which F2F (e.g. what is best for F2F and what may be better in discussions groups), and how the course tutor will manage the relation between the two modalities;

2 – How often will students meet F2F?

 Blended learning (also referred to as hybrid, or mixed), are courses where  learning takes both online and F2F, with the fundamental question being, of how much of the course will take place online and how much F2F. Because blended learning may be understood to have 30% to 70% of the course taking place online, this has implications for course design and delivery, as well as assessment. On the other hand, McGee & Reis (2012) argue that it is not the time in either setting which defines blended learning, but rather “Blended course designs involve instructor and learners working together in mixed delivery modes, typically face-to-face and technology mediated, to accomplish learning outcomes that are pedagogically supported through assignments, activities, and assessments as appropriate for a given mode and which bridge course environments in a manner meaningful to the learner.”

Blended learning courses may also follow different models as shown in the diagram below:

(Blended Learning Definitions and Models)

A key focus for any blended course will be on designing course activities, assignments and assessments and how they will be bridged online and F2F. Also highlighted in this initial chapter is the role of the teacher/course tutor – will be it one of directing or facilitating learning? The learner’s role is equally relevant as online learning tends to require a more self-directed learning approach and being able to collaborate with other learners.

Carman (2005) points out 5 main elements which should be incorporated into blended courses: Live events, Online Content, Collaboration, Assessment and Reference Materials. Currently, I am quite interested in the different aspects of online community building and think that the space for collaboration and building a learning community is of major importance for both distance and blended learning courses. As in online distance learning, I think that it is the collaboration space which will add the necessary  transformation approach  to online learning, in the sense that it is by contributing, sharing, and learning collaboratively, that knowledge is distributed and main sense of.

Setting course objectives will definitely help towards the design of the course, the principle being what is better for F2F contexts and what works better online. If this is not addressed, both the course tutor and learners may find themselves overwhelmed with tasks and assignments. Course design plays a significant role, with Instructional Design being understood as “a system or process of organising learning resources to ensure learners achieve established learning outcomes. As such, it is essentially a framework for learning. From a designers perspective, various models can be followed in the instructional design process. It is important to note that, at best, a model is a representation of actual occurrences and, as such, should be utilized only to the extent that it is manageable for the particular situation or task. Put another way, perhaps one model is more effective for designing a math course, and another model is more effective for designing soft skill courses (like managing people, customer service, etc.” (Siemens, 2002)

With all the changes happening in education, blended learning makes a lot of sense for both institutions and students. However, as in other contexts, the emphasis is on the learning and not on the technology, with course design playing a key role in the success of a blended course.


Blended Learning – Definitions and Models

Carman, J., 2005, Blended Learning Design: Five Key Ingredients

Instructional Design Models

McGee, P. & A. Reis, 2012, Blended Course Design: A Synthesis of Best Practices

Siemens, G., 2002, Instructional Design in Elearning

Siemens, G., 2004, Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age