Blended or hybrid learning refers to a combination of face-to-face classroom instruction and various media, usually online. Typically, some part of the course is delivered entirely online while other parts are delivered face-to-face, in problem-solving and seminar-style discussion formats.
In a blended learning course, students are responsible for much of their own learning, and the teacher is responsible for creating those opportunities for learning (Caulfield, 2011). Therefore, thoughtful planning of course activities that help students engage with the content is essential for an effective course.
Why blend your course?
Because blended learning allows for utilizing the best aspects of both face-to-face and online learning, it has many benefits:
A Learning Management System (LMS) such as Moodle can facilitate many kinds of social interactions through online discussion, wikis and other collaborative assignments. Online discussions have the potential to increase the number of faculty-student and student-student interactions, which would not be possible due to limited in-class time.
Bernard et al. (2014) found that blended learning outperforms face-to-face classroom instruction, and fully online instruction. On average groups of students receiving blended instruction outperform face-to-face classrooms on achievement by roughly 10-14%.
Because digital technologies partially free instructors from the confines of the 50-minute or 2-hour lecture, instructors can better pace learning sequences around the needs of students and, in some instances, let students set the pace themselves.
Most blended courses use an LMS or other online environments to manage course activities and post course materials. This electronic format makes these resources and materials accessible to students any time from any computer or mobile device and can be used in conjunction with screen-reading software for those who require it.
Online learning activities give students the opportunity to complete them in their own time without the same pressures as in-class activities.
When designed effectively, blended learning can provide more opportunities for students to engage with the content. In contrast to lectures, other types of learning activities, such as discussions and collaborative tasks - characteristic of effective blended courses - are more social, which may increase motivation and interest.
What does a Blended Learning course look like?
A blended learning course can take many forms. The frequency and format of face-to-face meetings and the nature of learning activities will vary greatly depending on the course goals. While there is no "right way" to set up a blended course, here are some examples of what it could look like:
Weekly one-hour face-to-face session complimented with online discussions, readings and other activities
Bi-weekly face-to-face sessions enriched with collaborative group work the other weeks
A few face-to-face sessions throughout the semester with a significant part of the work being done online, in groups or in the community
Examples of Blended Courses
- Examples of Blended Learning Courses gives an overview of how various courses were structured into a blended format (The University of Waterloo)
- Queen's Experiments with mix of lectures and online learning (University Affairs)
- 8 Interesting Examples of Blended Learning (A crowd-sourced Google presentation started by Joyce Seitzinger)
- Blended Learning in Introductory Psychology at McMaster University (Contact North)
- Developing a Blended Learning Course for More Engaged Learning in Calculus at Queen’s University (Contact North)
Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Schmid, R. F., Tamim, R. M., & Abrami, P. C. (2014). A meta-analysis of blended learning and technology use in higher education: from the general to the applied. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 26(1), 87–122. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12528-013-9077-3
Caulfield, J. (2011). How to design and teach a hybrid course: achieving student-centered learning through blended classroom, online, and experiential activities (1st ed). Sterling, Va: Stylus Pub
Garrison, D. R. & Vaughn, N.D. (2007) Blended Learning in Higher Education: Framework, Principles, and Guidelines. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.