Designing a blended course
What is a blended course?
Blended course definition
The University of Ottawa has adopted the following definition of blended learning.
A blended course is designed such that equally meaningful online activities substitute some in-class time.
This means that the in-class and online portions of a course are complementary and have been thoughtfully combined to meet the learner's needs and the course's goals. The online components are not an addition to a full course load but a purposeful substitution of some in-class activities.
To expand on this definition, there is also a limit to how many classes an instructor may place online. For a course to be considered blended, we require that online activities substitute 20 – 80% of a course. For example, in a 12-week course, at least 2 face-to-face classes (20%) would need to be substituted with online activities to a maximum of 10 classes online (80%).
Blended course structure
What does a blended course look like? The short answer is: it will vary.
Much like a traditional course, the structure of blended courses will range to meet the unique challenges of the learning environment, course content, instructor preferences, and learner needs. Our definition supports this flexibility so instructors can make the right pedagogical decisions regarding course redesign.
The Challenge of designing a blended course is finding the right balance between face-to-face and online activities. The course structure should be created thoughtfully, with the learner at the center of the redesign. Sessions should be placed appropriately online or in class but complement each other to take advantage of the online or in-class medium.
The course structures presented below are meant as informational; they aim to illustrate a sample of the possible divisions between face-to-face and online hours. We encourage anyone interested in redesigning their course(s) into a blended format to contact us at: saea-tlss@uOttawa.ca.
Differences in terminology
Various terms are used within the research literature to describe what we have deemed a blended course. For example, similar formats have been called blended, hybrid, mixed-mode, and flexible learning. These terms generally act as synonyms for the blended format described in the “Definition” section above.
As the blended format is relatively new, there are ongoing debates and discussions within the literature surrounding the parameters and definition of a blended course. Some of these synonyms act as ways to differentiate one researcher’s definition from the other. Consequently, individuals may see various definitions for blended learning across different institutions and within the literature.
For a more thorough synthesis of the current research on blended learning, see: “Preparing for the Digital University” by George Siemens.
A model-based reflective teaching practices
Designing a blended course is based on a set of specific actions. To help instructors who wish to make this educational transition, the Teaching and Learning Support Service (TLSS) of the University of Ottawa proposes a model that reviews components of the course design process in the context of transforming a course into a blended format.
Instructions: click on different stages of the course design process (each circle) to reveal the associated information, resources and/or links.
The Designing a Blended Course Tool created by the Teaching and Learning Support Service (TLSS) of the University of Ottawa (Canada) is made available under the terms of the Attribution - NonCommercial - ShareAlike 4.0 International.
Click here to see references
- Siemens, G., & Dawson, S. (2015). Preparing for the Digital University. Picciano – Blended learning research perspectives
- Graham, C. R. (2013). Emerging practice and research in blended learning. Handbook of distance education, 3.
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- Halverson, L. R., Graham, C. R., Spring, K. J., Drysdale, J. S., & Henrie, C. R. (2014). A thematic analysis of the most highly cited scholarship in the first decade of blended learning research. The Internet and Higher Education, 20, 20-34.
- Hood, M. (2013). Bricks or clicks? Predicting student intentions in a blended learning buffet. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 29(6), 762-776.
- Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Athabasca University Press.
- Margulieux, L. E., Bujak, K. R., McCracken, W. M., & Majerich, D. M. (2014). Hybrid, blended, flipped, and inverted: defining terms in a two-dimensional taxonomy. In Paper accepted to the 12th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Education. Honolulu, HI January (Vol. 2014, pp. 5-9).
- Yuen, A. H., Deng, L., Fox, R., & Tavares, N. J. (2009). Engaging students with online discussion in a blended learning context: issues and implications. In Hybrid learning and education (pp. 150-162). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
- Torrisi-Steele, G., & Drew, S. (2013). The literature landscape of blended learning in higher education: the need for better understanding of academic blended practice. International Journal for Academic Development, 18(4), 371-383.
- Owston, R., York, D., & Murtha, S. (2013). Student perceptions and achievement in a university blended learning strategic initiative. The Internet and Higher Education, 18, 38-46.
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- Caravias, V. (2014). Teachers' Conceptions and Approaches to Blended Learning: A Literature Review. In The Third International Conference on E-Learning and E-Technologies in Education (ICEEE2014) (pp. 61-75). The Society of Digital Information and Wireless Communication.
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- Akyol, Z., & Garrison, D. R. (2011). Understanding cognitive presence in an online and blended community of inquiry: Assessing outcomes and processes for deep approaches to learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(2), 233-250.
- Akyol, Z., Garrison, D. R., & Ozden, M. Y. (2009). Online and blended communities of inquiry: Exploring the developmental and perceptional differences. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(6), 65-83.
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Design of Blended Courses
- Spanjers, I. A., Könings, K. D., Leppink, J., Verstegen, D. M., de Jong, N., Czabanowska, K., & van Merriënboer, J. J. (2015). The promised land of blended learning: Quizzes as a moderator. Educational Research Review, 15, 59-74.
- Shea, P. (2007). Towards a conceptual framework for learning in blended environments. Blended learning: Research perspectives, 19-35.
- Hoic-Bozic, N., Mornar, V., & Boticki, I. (2009). A blended learning approach to course design and implementation. Education, IEEE Transactions on, 52(1), 19-30.
- McGee, P., & Reis, A. (2012). Blended Course Design: A Synthesis of Best Practices. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(4), 7-22.
- Helms, S. A. (2014). Blended/hybrid courses: a literature review and recommendations for instructional designers and educators. Interactive Learning Environments, 22(6), 804-810.
- Ausburn, L. J. (2004). Course design elements most valued by adult learners in blended online education environments: An American perspective. Educational Media International, 41(4), 327-337.
- Shibley, I., Amaral, K. E., Shank, J. D., & Shibley, L. R. (2011). Designing a blended course: Using ADDIE to guide instructional design. Journal of College Science Teaching, 40(6), 80-85.
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- Precel, K., Eshet-Alkalai, Y., & Alberton, Y. (2009). Pedagogical and design aspects of a blended learning course. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(2).
- Foster, M. K. Report on Blended Course Design: A Bootcamp for Instructors.
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- Huang, R., & Zheng, L. (2009). An empirical study on blended learning in the introduction to educational technology course. In Hybrid Learning and Education (pp. 122-132). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
Books about blended learning
Here is a list of books about blended learning.
Some of them are free and can be directly downloaded from this page.
Navigate the transition to blended learning with this practical field guide
Blended is the practical field guide for implementing blended learning techniques in K–12 classrooms. A follow–up to the bestseller Disrupting Class by Clayton M. Christensen, Michael Horn, and Curtis Johnson, this hands–on guide expands upon the blended learning ideas presented in that book to provide practical implementation guidance for educators seeking to incorporate online learning with traditional classroom time. Readers will find a step–by–step framework upon which to build a more student–centered system, along with essential advice that provides the expertise necessary to build the next generation of K–12 learning environments. Leaders, teachers, and other stakeholders will gain valuable insight into the process of using online learning to the greatest benefit of students, while avoiding missteps and potential pitfalls.
If online learning has not already rocked your local school, it will soon. Blended learning is one of the hottest trends in education right now, and educators are clamouring for "how–to" guidance. Blended answers the call by providing detailed information about the strategy, design, and implementation of a successful blended learning program.
- Discover a useful framework for implementing blended learning
- Unlock the benefits and mitigate the risks of online learning
- Find answers to the most commonly asked questions surrounding blended learning
- Create a more student–centered system that functions as a positive force across grade levels
Educators who loved the ideas presented in Disrupting Class now have a field guide to making it work in a real–world school, with expert advice for making the transition smoother for students, parents, and teachers alike. For educational leaders seeking more student–centered schools, Blended provides the definitive roadmap.
This guide is:
Easy to use: Clear, jargon-free writing; illustrations; and references to online resources help readers understand concepts.
Streamlined: A simple but effective design process focuses on creating manageable activities for the right environment.
Practical: Real-world examples from different subject areas help teachers understand principles in context.
Contemporary: The variety of modern, connected technologies covered in the guide addresses a range of teaching challenges.
Forward-Looking: The approach bridges the gap between formal classroom learning and informal lifelong learning.
Standards-based: Guidelines and standards are based on current research in the field, relevant learning theories, and practitioner experiences.
Effective blended learning requires significant rethinking of teaching practices and a fundamental redesign of course structure. Essentials for Blended Learning: A Standards-Based Guide simplifies these difficult challenges without neglecting important opportunities to transform teaching. This guide is suitable for teachers in any content area.
This groundbreaking book offers a down–to–earth resource for the practical application of blended learning in higher education as well as a comprehensive examination of the topic. Well–grounded in research, Blended Learning in Higher Education clearly demonstrates how the blended learning approach embraces the traditional values of face–to–face teaching and integrates the best practices of online learning. This approach has proven to both enhance and expand the effectiveness and efficiency of teaching and learning in higher education across disciplines. In this much–needed book, authors D. Randy Garrison and Norman D. Vaughan present the foundational research, theoretical framework, scenarios, principles, and practical guidelines for the redesign and transformation of the higher education curriculum.
Blended Learning in Higher Education
- Outlines seven blended learning redesign principles
- Explains the professional development issues essential to the implementation of blended learning designs
- Presents six illustrative scenarios of blended learning design
- Contains practical guidelines to blended learning redesign
- Describes techniques and tools for engaging students
Vaughan N. (2014). Student engagement and blended learning: Making the assessment connection. Education Sciences, 4(4), 247-264
There is an increased focus on student engagement and blended approaches to learning in higher education. This article demonstrates how collaborative learning applications and a blended approach to learning can be used to design and support assessment activities that increase levels of student engagement with course concepts, their peers, faculty and external experts, leading to increased student success and satisfaction.
Keywords: student engagement; collaborative learning applications; blended learning; assessment
Guidelines for designing teaching and learning for a digital age.
The book examines the underlying principles that guide effective teaching in an age when all of us, and in particular the students we are teaching, are using technology. A framework for making decisions about your teaching is provided while understanding that every subject is different, and every instructor has something unique and special to bring to their teaching.
The book enables teachers and instructors to help students develop the knowledge and skills they will need in a digital age: not so much the IT skills, but the thinking and attitudes to learning that will bring them success.
Book release date (final version): 1 April 2015. For subsequent updates, see Updates and Revisions.