Blended (Hybrid) Course Design, Spring 2012

Accessible Version

By Kim Holland, Instructional Designer, Teaching Support Centre

I’m going to define Blended Learning as the thoughtful integration of face-to-face and online instructional forms to achieve your pedagogical outcomes. The scale can range from a component in a course to a whole university degree.

The simple addition of an online component (use of OWL) does not, in and of itself, mean you have a blended course or program. For example, Allen and Seaman 2011, have suggested that a simple measure of the amount of content delivered can be used to define blended instruction (fig.1). This results in an uncomplicated metric for the blended course/program definition while all nuances of the potential transformational nature of this instructional mode are lost or not considered.  It is this ‘thoughtful integration’ that needs to be considered and applied into your pedagogy where the synergies of both faceto- face and online can be realized.  The use of any new technology has the potential to be a disruptive change in the status quo. The introduction of blended course design invites, and may even require, reconceptualization of the current learning paradigm. This new blended mode could allow instructors to imaginatively redesign their course to fit the needs of the learner.  Dziuban et al. 2004 state, "Blended learning should be viewed as a pedagogical approach that combines the effectiveness and socialization opportunities of the classroom with the technologically enhanced active learning possibilities of the online environment, rather than a ratio of delivery modalities."2
The implementation of blended pedagogy change may result in your experiencing resistance from your peers, administration, and even students who have certain expectations of what a course should be. Be strong and recite this:

All truth passes through three stages.  First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. Arthur Schopenhauer

The blended model of instruction could be considered the natural result of a changing educational landscape (fig. 2). Technological innovation has given rise to online instruction and its growing importance is evidenced by the number of students experiencing this mode of instruction. In the United States, "over 6.1 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2010 term; an increase of 560,000 students over the number reported the previous year."3 Changes in the student population and educational technology affordances demand that universities respond with blended modes of instruction. A majority of colleges and universities report that online learning was critically part of their long-term strategy.4

Bonk and Graham 2006, suggested that blended learning might be described in terms of four dimensions of interaction between face-to-face and online distributed environments.5 The dimensions are Space, Time, Fidelity, and Humanness (fig.3).5 Blended learning opportunities exist because technological innovation is played out in these four dimensions.

What will blended courses do for student learning and for the campuslearning environment? What are some of the potential benefits?

Greater ability to adapt to increasing diversity: More effective accommodation for learners and teachers with diverse ages, styles, expertise, nationalities, and cultures.

Pedagogical richness: A blended learning approach focuses on interactive strategies that lead to an increase in the level of active learning, peer-to-peer learning strategies, and learner-centered strategies. The use of virtual realities allows for collaborative learning and problem solving to be applied in a more authentic manner.

On campus the blended format could help solve physical space issues: Capital construction projects are expensive to undertake and physical structures require ongoing costs for maintenance. Blended courses can help Western work more effectively with current space, while allowing for enrollment growth.

The blended format enables students to have greater timetable flexibility: With tuition and other university costs rising, most students are forced into the workplace.  Blended and online courses provide students with the flexibility they need to hold down a job while still pursuing an education.  Timetable flexibility also assists with students completing their degrees in a timely manner since course timetable conflicts are very common.

Blended learning provides the most effective education model: In 2010 the US Department of Education completed a metaanalysis of hundreds of separate studies that showed Blended Course Design offers the greatest opportunity for student success in a course. 6

Students expect technology to assist with their learning choices: Today’s students are online, swimming freely in this digital ocean, and are expecting their services to be ondemand and ubiquitous. Blended courses are in a format readily accepted and expected by new students.

Greater student and faculty satisfaction because of opportunities that blended learning affords.

In the future, given these benefits, we will see blending learning become the dominant mode of teaching. That future will be differentiated not based on whether blended learning is used but rather by how a course or program is blended. With careful planning and an up-front investment of time and expertise, blended mode delivers a costeffective, quality-rich educational model that can be applied today and into the future.

1Allen, I. Elaine, and Seaman, Jeff, 2011. Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, Sloan Online Survey, Babson Survey Research Group.

2Dziuban, C. D., Hartman, J., and Moskal, P., 2004. Blended Learning, Educause, Center for Applied Research, Issue 7.

3Allen, I. Elaine, and Seaman, Jeff, 2011. Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, Sloan Online Survey, Babson Survey Research Group.

4Allen, I. Elaine, and Seaman, Jeff, 2011. Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, Sloan Online Survey, Babson Survey Research Group.

5Bonk, C. J. & Graham, C. R. (Eds.), 2006. Handbook of blended learning: Global Perspectives, local designs. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer Publishing.

6U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, 2010. Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, Washington, D.C.