Understanding Blended Learning

This week, I started into a MOOC titled Becoming a Blended Learning Designer being put on by Educase and the University of Central Florida. Over the coming weeks, this blog will serve as a platform for reflecting on my course work, so I hope you enjoy!

Reading Reflection

Quick Synopsis: 

  • Blended learning (also known as hybrid or mixed-mode courses) refer to courses having some combination of on-campus face-to-face meeting and online activities, where roughly 30-70% of the course instruction is delivered online
  • Blended learning can have many benefits, including flexibility, increased time for active learning, and new engagement opportunities. However, to achieve these benefits blended learning courses must be thoughtfully and carefully designed. In not doing so, instructors run the dangerous risk of consuming far more time of their students and themselves.
  • Course objectives and outcomes are particularly important in blended learning course design as they inform content delivery mechanism and pedagogy – where and how learning events will occur
  • Identify the ideal learning experience in meeting course objectives then analyze which elements can be delivered online without compromising learning effectiveness
  •  As a rule of thumb, students should be able to perform online tasks with little to no prompting by the instructor
  • Overall, blended learning courses can be designed to meet an increasingly important attitude towards teaching and learning; that less emphasis be placed on presenting information and more emphasis be placed on building the learner’s ability to navigate the wide array of information available in this digital age. “Learners can be provided with a rich array of tools and information sources to use in creating their own learning pathways. The instructor or institution can still ensure that critical learning elements are achieved by focusing instead on the creation of the knowledge ecology”


When blended learning first came across my radar, the Faculty of Arts and Science at Queen’s had just started spearheading a Blended Learning Task Force that sought to position a range of courses toward a blended learning approach. At the time, we spoke of differing definitions. Was blended learning a mix of face-to-face and online? or was it broader than that – simply any form of mixed modality teaching? Thinking the later to be an outdated way of thinking about teaching and learning (I would like to think, maybe naively, that we have moved beyond the days of uni-modal instruction), I embraced the definition of blended learning as a combination of face-to-face and online engagement.

Given my limited exposure to blended courses, it’s concerning to me that I should be so well aware of the bad reputation they’ve developed. I know them as overwhelming for all involved. I’ve heard horror stories of the courses doubling, even tripling the amount of work expected of students. I’ve heard of how hard they are to put together and sustain, swamping and overwhelming instructors.

All of this seems to indicate an issue with design. Blended learning is not simply the addition of online components to an already overwhelming course of ridiculous expectations. Its about getting at the heart of course objectives, setting realistic intended learning outcomes for students, then selecting the best mechanism and modality for facilitating their achievement.

I’m relived to see #BlendKit2015 start with an emphasis on course design. This week I have learned how to think about the design process with a blended learning structure in mind. How to start with the course objectives and outcomes then translate this into effective decisions about what interactions are best left face-to-face and which might be put online.

For this MOOC, I will be playing around with my “dream course”- the course I wish to one-day have the opportunity to teach. #BlendKit2015 asked us to first put together a course blueprint then a Mix Map of pedagogies intended for face-to-face and online environments:

The course blueprint outlines the general course description, course objectives (what instructor aims to accomplish in facilitating the course), course outcomes (the intended learning outcomes, or what the learner can expect to be able to do by the end of the course) and the evidence (the assignments and assessments that will demonstrate ability in each respected area)

The Mix Map organizes pedagogies and learning activities into those conducted face-to-face, online, and a combination of the two. Notice the alignment between the above blueprint and the mix map.

Next week we are on to Blended Interactions where we will consider how to plan for instructionally relevant interactions and how to effectively communicate expectations around blended interactions to students!

Creative Commons License

Understanding Blended Learning by Lauren Anstey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Photo Credit: Few Understand Solitude by Michelle Robinson, Flickr


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