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Introduction to Blended Learning

Blended learning courses allow you to leverage the best aspects of both face-to-face and out-of-class learning. For example, a lecture that students are expected to follow and take notes may be better suited for online work, while a lecture that is punctuated with knowledge checks and other activities to generate discussion and/or solicit student feedback on the spot would be more appropriate in-person. The modality you choose for any class activity should be based on your learning goals for the students. 

What is the difference between Blended learning and regular in-person classes?

In-person classes can still benefit from online activities outside of class, such as discussion forums, readings, videos, and other activities to support learning as part of the usual course activities. However, adding online aynchronous components to a course does not, by definition, make it "blended." This would still be an in-person course enhanced by technology.

For example, some instructors may choose to use a flipped classroom approach where students watch lectures or do readings before coming to class. As long as this course work does not exceed the typical courseload, it can remain in-person without reducing the contact hours.

However, if the course work assigned out of class exceeds usual course workloads, there may be a need to reduce the class time. For example, if students are required to watch lecture videos and do readings before class and also complete follow-up activities after class, you may want to consider reducing the number of in-person hours to make up for the additional work. Or, students could be engaged in project work or other experiential activities that replace class time. If you reduce the class time by more than 25%, then this would fall under the designation of a blended course.

To sum up, not every course that integrates technology is by definition blended, but rather blended indicates that a significant portion of class work will be shifted outside of class.

Why Blend your Course?

Here are some of the benefits of the out-of-class component of blended learning courses:

Increased social interaction

Because of the flexibility of blended courses, instructors design that courses that offer opportunities for students to interact with each other and the broader community. Instead of using class time to attend lectures or do traditional course work, students could work with community partners, do field trips or other kinds of projects where students are interacting with different audiences.

Course work on Moodle can facilitate richer social interactions through online discussions and collaborative assignments. Online discussions have the potential to increase the number of faculty-student and student-student interactions, which may not be possible due to limited in-class time, classroom configuration, etc.

Increased achievement through peer-to-peer interaction

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%.

Increased flexibility in the design of teaching

Because digital technologies partially free instructors from the confines of the weekly three-hour lecture, instructors can better design their course to integrate a variety of learning activities and projects with an appropriate pace and varying sequences around the needs of students and, in some instances, let students set the pace themselves.

More equitable access to course materials

Most blended courses use Moodle 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.

Increased student engagement and autonomy

A growing body of research shows that students appreciate having access to lecture recordings and use them to improve their learning in various ways: 

  • to prepare for tests and exams (Brady et al., 2013; Lambert et al. 2019; Saunders and Hutt 2015; Traphagan et al. 2009), 
  • review difficult material and review material they missed during the live lecture (Gorissen et al. 2012; Groen et al. 2016; Leadbeater et al. 2013, 
  • to improve the detail and clarity of their notes (Elliott and Neal 2016; Gosper et al. 2010; Leadbeater et al., 2013; Newton et al., 2014), and 
  • to make up for a missed class (Traphagan et al.; 2009).

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.

Brady, M., Wong, R., & Newton, G. (2013). Characterization of catch-up behavior: Accession of lecture capture videos following student absenteeism. Education Sciences, 3(3), 344-358.

Couperthwaite, J, Leadbeater, W., Nightingale, K., Shuttleworth, T. (2012). Evaluating the use and impact of lecture recording in undergraduates: Evidence for distinct approaches by different groups of students. Computers & Education, 61(1),185-192.

Gorissen, P., van Bruggen, J., & Jochems, W. (2012). Survey on Current Use and Demands for Higher Education. Research in Learning Technology, 2(3), 297–311.

Elliott C, Neal D. (2016). Evaluating the use of lecture capture using a revealed preference approach. Active Learning in Higher Education, 17(2), 153-167.

Gosper, M. McNeill, R. Phillips, G. Preston, K. Woo & D. Green. (2010). Web-based lecture technologies and learning and teaching: a study of change in four Australian universities. Research in Learning Technology, 18(3) 251-263.

Groen. J. F., Quigley, B., Herry, Yves. (2016). Examining the Use of Lecture Capture Technology: Implications for Teaching and Learning. Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. 7(1), Article 8.

Leadbeater, W. et al. (2013). Evaluating the use and impact of lecture recording in undergraduates: Evidence for distinct approaches by different groups of students. Computers Education, 61, pp.185–192.

Linder, K. E. (2017). The Blended Course Design Workbook: A practical guide. Sterling, Va: Stylus Publishing.

Newton, G., Tucker, T., Dawson, J., & Currie, E. (2014). Use of lecture capture in higher education - Lessons from the trenches. TechTrends, 58(2), 32-45.

Roose, I., Vantieghem, W., Van Damme, K., Lambert, P., Vanderlinde, R., & Van Avermaet, P. (2019). Measuring teachers’ professional vision of inclusive classrooms through video-based comparative judgement. What does it mean to misfit? International Journal of Educational Research98, 257–271.

Saunders, F. C.; Hutt, I. (2015). Enhancing Large-Class Teaching: A Systematic Comparison of Rich-Media Materials. Higher Education Research and Development, v34 n6 p1233-1250.

Traphagan, T., Kucsera, J. V & Kishi, K., 2009. Impact of class lecture webcasting on attendance and learning. Educational Technology Research & Development, 58(1), pp.19–37.

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