Blended learning means making the most of digital tools as well as the important face-to-face contact, activities and interaction of a traditional classroom. The key is to design it as a seamless experience, where the use of digital tools is appropriate and fulfils a need, rather than seeming like an add-on or being used for its own sake.
Digital tools can offer a lot of advantages:
- Students can have access to resources 24/7, allowing them to be flexible in their asynchronous learning.
- Less confidents students may be able to participate more easily with anonymous polling tools or other non-verbal ways of contributing.
- Students can continually practice and check their knowledge with automatically marked online tests and activities.
- Resources can be provided in different formats to improve accessibility.
- Collaboration and co-authoring can be made easier with online tools.
- Virtual resources such as online tours and simulations can help to provide a more authentic experience where first-hand experiences would be difficult, dangerous or expensive.
All of these can complement and enhance in-class teaching, group work and practical activities, making learning experiences more accessible and inclusive.
In addition, becoming confident with digital tools at university will help students improve their digital skills for the workplace.
Blended by design
Blended learning is not a new idea. This paper from 2004 (Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education, by Garrison and Kanuka) describes the potential for blended learning to facilitate communities of enquiry which support higher levels of learning. Due to its age it characterises online learning as being both asynchronous and text-based; neither of these are necessarily true any longer. Online learning frequently consists of a variety of media and methods, and may be used in class as well as outside it. Nevertheless, many of the points made are as valid today as they were then, not least that:
‘Blended learning inherently is about rethinking and redesigning the teaching and learning relationship.’
Blended learning does not mean just storing learning materials on the VLE. It is about creating a learning experience that combines online and in-person methods so that students can get the most from their course.
The 3Ps and blended learning
‘Prepare, Participate, Practise’.
The 3Ps framework is one way of considering the breadth of the student learning experience. Think about how blended learning can help students:
- Prepare – e.g. giving students a video clip to watch before a class session.
- Participate – e.g. online discussion boards or in-class polls.
- Practise – e.g. online tests.
In addition, think about how digital tools can contribute to:
- Communication – how do students know what is expected of them? How can they contact you for support?
- Assessment and feedback – would digital assessments be more authentic? Would feedback be improved if it was audio/video feedback?
- Personalisation – how do you provide for students with a range of different needs?
Contact the LIU if you want to know more about designing your FET module or programme for blended learning.