Blended Learning, Part 1

Effective blended learning doesn’t happen by accident; it happens by design. When done well, it can be a powerful learning environment. When done poorly, it can be a frustrating mess for students, instructors, and administrators.

As the instructional designer for SAU’s new blended RN-MSN program, I’ve learned some valuable lessons on implementing this format. In a series of posts, I’ll discuss some practical tips you can use when designing blended courses.

In this first post, I’ll give a quick overview of blending learning.

Blended learning and what it means

The blended format is touted as the “best of both worlds” because it provides the flexibility of online learning while enabling face-to-face interaction and social support for students. Well-designed blended learning courses are not only effective in terms of learning outcomes, but they rank high on ratings of satisfaction with students and instructors.

In a blended format, the face-to-face and online components are integrated pieces of a course. Some definitions focus on percentages—that is, the percentage of content that is delivered online versus face-to-face. Other definitions focus on the integration of face-to-face and online learning experiences.

In online courses, 80 percent or more of the content is delivered online. In blended courses, 30 to 80 percent of the content is delivered online.

You say hybrid, I say blended

You’ll often see the terms blended and hybrid used interchangeably. They basically mean the same thing. I prefer the term blended instead of hybrid. Why?

  • Hybrid implies the face-to-face and online components are two separate distinct aspects of a course.
  • Blended implies the face-to-face and online components are integrated parts of a course.

Instead of thinking in terms of the online classroom and the face-to-face classroom, think of the course’s learning outcomes and how the two components can work together to provide the best possible learning environment for students.

Another way to look at it…

When designing blended courses, I find it helpful to think in terms of informational versus transformational learning. What do I mean by that?

  • Informational learning mainly happens outside of the face-to-face classroom. It’s reading, watching videos, and taking quizzes.
  • Transformational learning happens in the face-to-face classroom. It’s taking the information you’ve learned and applying it, so you’re transformed by what you’ve learned.

What does that look like?

In a nursing theory course, students read, watch videos, and take online quizzes about different theories and theorists. In the face-to-face class, students work in groups and apply the theories to case studies. They take information (facts about nursing theories) and critically think through how to apply this information to real-world situations.

What do you think? Does blended learning live up to the hype?

In my next post, I’ll share 8 tips for implementing blended courses in higher ed.


Author: modelelearning

Our team explores instructional design and eLearning trends. We develop student-centered blended and online courses at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, MI.

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