I’d just like to start by reviewing what is meant by Blended Learning. There are many misconceptions. Some people believe it is some form of delivery strategy that I would call Distance Learning. It is definitely not that!
There are many definitions about what blended learning is and in its simplistic form this one from the DET in 2003 identifies that it is the combination of face-to-face tutor student contact with an online element. This though, for me, is to narrow and restrictive. At this level you could argue that providing your students with online content and then delivering the occasional lecture based on this fits the bill and we can call it blended learning. Well you could say that this approach has been around for a very long time and employed brilliantly by The Open University. I would argue that this does not constitute a blended learning approach. For me blended learning takes technology and mixes it with innovative and creative approaches to learning to produce a medium to support and promote individual and collaborative learning where the learner is at the heart of the system and the tutor becomes a facilitator for learning rather than a deliverer of content.
For me this definition by Heinze and Procter in 2003, says it all. It is not limited to simply a combination of face-to-face and online material it allows for much more than that. With this definition the sky is the limit and indeed you are only limited by the creative powers of the users. One very important word in all of this is communication . For blended learning to work this part of the definition is critical. Without it the whole strategy is winding its way to disaster.
Just a little bit here about the misconceptions of blended learning. It is definitely not a cheap way of delivering courses. In my experience it takes a great deal of time and effort and, I would argue, more contact time because of the monitoring and the checking and the updating which is needed. Savings can be made via a lesser need for rooming perhaps but certainly not in the reduction of tutor contact time. It is not distance learning. That can and is delivered online of course but is a very different beast to blended learning. There is no one pedagogy that will work in all instances. Each course will have its own idiosyncrasies which must be catered for let alone the varying needs of the learners within these courses. The final one I’ ve already addressed.
So in what ways do learners obtain information? Well, from physically attending classes of course, but mainly these days from the internet. Information is available 24/7 and so teachers are no longer the main disseminator of knowledge. We are increasingly becoming important as facilitators and filters, separating the good facts from bad!
Physical methods include...which all require physical space to be provided to house the activities.
These include...and all take place online and within a VLE system of some kind.
What if we blend these two together? Two becomes one superb learning environment....... It is not about though a distance learning course with a bit of face-to-face contact like The Open University. Blending is just that. Utilising the virtual resources to complement the physical ones to enhance the learning experience. In a small scale study carried out here at Bath Spa not so long ago by Joelle Adams she states “ A student centred approach to learning and teaching in HE requires consideration of the question, ‘ What is best for students ’ learning and experience? ’” I would argue that it is a true blended learning concept. It engages the learners and supports the ethos of independent learning; critical for life at HE.
So what could a blended concept look like? Well, using an example I have delivered at FE it could look something like this. The VLE has to have structure with updated and useful interactive elements, not simply a repository for course documents.
One of the most important collaborative elements was the Discussion Board, which here I renamed the Coffee Lounge in an attempt to engage he adult learners in a friendly way. Remember for many they had not attended any form of education for 20 years or more; let alone be comfortable with using technology on this scale! However, the discussion board was a brilliant way of sharing good practice, knowledge and support among the cohort of learners. Explain the gradual independence when answering questions.
The importance of the blogs cannot be overstated. It is here that the ethos of reflection to evaluate ones own progress and to set actions to improve is encouraged. Using a simple reflective model developed by Rolfe, “ What, So what, Now what? ” , students are required to comment on their learning and set meaningful SMART targets for self improvement.
I know that I can be an integral part of Bath University ’ s continuing journey to advance the quality of the education it offers to students. Ironically I foresee, and indeed am working, towards a time when we will no longer talk about Blended Learning, instead we have Seamless Learning whereby our methods of delivery are intrinsically ‘ fit for purpose ’ and consequently as varied as the students who entrust us with their education.
Blended learning strategies presentation
Strategies for incorporating blended learning into an HE environment John Earland
DET definition• The Department for Education and Training (DET) provides a definition of blended learning:• “learning which combines online and face to face approaches”. (DET, 2003)• Simplistic and two dimensional
Heinze and Procter researchBlended Learning is learning that is facilitated by the effective combination of different modes of delivery, models of teaching and styles of learning, and founded on transparent communication amongst all parties involved with a course. (Heinze and Procter, 2003)This provides a broader and richer context to inspire innovation and creativity
Blended learning isn’t….a cheap way to deliver coursesanother name for distance learninga one size fits all pedagogya way of reducing staff commitments on a course
Virtual Methods Blogs and Reflective Journals Wikis/Deli.cio.us/Glogster/Wallwisher – to allow collaborative assessment-both formative and summative and sharing of ideas Discussion Forums Text Messaging Assignment Submission Gradecentre Assessment tools – tests, quizzes etc.content generator Virtual Classroom/Pronto/Mizaru Handouts/Dvolver/ Course Documents RSS Feeds
What if we BLEND these two together? Two becomes one superb learning environment• Now we have the opportunity to enhance and enrich out students’ learning experience• The skill is in the blending ..like any good tea taster can tell you!
A blended learning concept Blackboard course structure reflects the actual course structure; Each module broken down into areas of study; Each area of study has the learning outcomes and assessment strategies outlined; Learning materials are uploaded and enhanced using CourseGenie; Quick quizzes and self assessment formative tests follow the learning materials; Written/Online summative assignments Online tutoring using chat/virtual classroom Use of blogs, wikis, podcasts, vodcasts and SMS texting
Blackboard course structure Course Materials, Assignments etc. all tabs redefined to reflect the structure of the course. Also include quick links to the Discussion Board, My Blogs, RSS feeds and course admin. area.
Learning units The learning areas contain the Scheme of Work, the subject being covered at a particular time and some general learning materials that cover the course as a whole, along with the podcasts. These could easily be located elsewhere if it was deemed appropriate. Once you are in a particular learning area, the learner would then drill down into the specific subject of interest at a particular time of the course.
Learning unit content In this section the student will find the learning outcomes expected from studying this section and how they are going to be assessed. It is important that there is an online component so that the learner can track their own progress and you can check learning.
Blogs-My Personal Journal This is the journal used as a vehicle for student self reflection and to identify action points for progress. This is very much a personal reflective log but one which is monitored by tutors with the permission of the learners.
Lessons Learnt• Time requirements• Blended learning misconceptions• Still learning• All staff and students must “buy in” to the concept• Communication is essential• Collaborative as well as individualised learning must be at the heart of the strategy
And finally ...• “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Steve Jobs• I am committed to Blended Learning as the way ahead in all areas of education, and I am confident that I can help drive this university forward to meet the challenges and exciting opportunities of the future .
References and creditso DET, (2003) Blended Learning, NSW Department of Education and Training.o Heinze, A. and Procter, C., (2003) Reflections On The Use Of Blended Learning. University of Salford, Salfordo Procter, C., (2003) Blended Learning in Practice, In Inaugural Education in a Changing Environment conference. University of Salford, Salford.o Singh, H. (November - December 2003) Issue of Educational Technology, Volume 43, Number 6, Pages 51-54.o Adams,J. (2010)C reativeC ollaborative Learning UsingW eb 2.0 Tools. Society for Teachingand Learning in Higher Education. Toronto,Canada. June 2010 Available from:o http://bathspa.academia.edu/JoelleAdams/Papers/184784/Using_techno logy_to_improve_learning_teaching_and_research_in_my_professional_ practice