Blended learning is a broad term used to describe the combination of face-to-face and online delivery of teaching and learning. There are many definitions of the term and different approaches to blended learning. Victoria University describes blended learning in the following way:

“blended learning – otherwise referred to as hybrid learning or mixed mode learning – is usually seen as a mix of face-to-face (f2f) and online delivery, and may refer to the mix of delivery across a whole institution, across a whole course, or within individual units of study”

(VU Agenda and Blueprint for Curriculum Reform, 2012, p21).

This page provides an introduction to some of the principles for blended, or technology-enhanced, learning, and the most well-known approach: flipped classrooms.

Blended-learning principles

Blended-learning approaches should not be driven solely by the technology or the tools available to use. A purposeful consideration of student learning should drive the blended learning approach.

Like all delivery approaches, when using technologies, your teaching needs to be based on good teaching and curriculum practice. A blended learning approach provides many advantages to students (flexibility, accessibility, more varied and connected activities).

As teachers it is important to ensure that the balance of ‘integrating technologies’ into your teaching is based on your learning outcomes.

Key assumptions

Some key assumptions in blended-learning design have been identified as follows:

  • thoughtfully integrating face-to-face and online learning
  • fundamentally rethinking the course design to optimise student engagement
  • restructuring and replacing traditional class contact hours (Garrison and Vaughan, 2011, p5)

Guiding principles

When developing a blended learning unit and/or course, principles of good practice in teaching and learning design need to be applied. Garrison and Vaughan (2011) advocate the need to create and sustain community through social and cognitive presence in blended learning design. As such they have identified seven principles to guide this focus.

  • ‘plan to establish a climate that will encourage open communication and create trust
  • plan for critical reflection, discourse, and tasks that will support systemic inquiry
  • sustain community by shifting to purposeful, collaborative communication
  • encourage and support the progression of inquiry
  • manage collaborative relationships to support students in assuming increasing responsibility for their learning
  • ensure that inquiry moves to resolution and that metacognitive awareness is developed
  • ensure assessment is congruent with intended learning outcomes’ (Garrison and Vaughan).

Components of blended learning

Picciano (2009) in his work on ‘blending with purpose’ has developed a multimodal model for the design of blended learning. In doing so he has identified six components of the model that driven by the learning outcomes of the unit should blend together seamlessly in unit/course design. Some of these components can be delivered and experienced online and others face-to-face. They are:

  • using multiple technologies and media to deliver content
  • providing social and emotional support
  • engaging students in dialectic and questioning activities
  • incorporating reflection and activities that require students to reflect on their learning
  • engaging in collaborative learning
  • synthesising, evaluating and assessing learning

Questions

  • What educationally purposeful online activities, technologies and media are you currently using in your teaching?
  • What opportunities are there to replace some of the face-to-face activities with online activities and/or resources?
  • In considering the ‘blend’ of face-to-face and online in your teaching have you critically assessed the balance to ensure that all components of good teaching and learning practice are covered?

Flipped classrooms

Flipping the classroom is an increasingly popular approach to blended learning. The flipped classroom is a term that broadly describes the reversal of traditional classroom pedagogy.

In a flipped classroom students view or read subject content prior to the class and the face-to-face time is given over to student driven, interactive, collaborative discussion and hands-on activities.

In this approach the teacher takes on the role of facilitator and advisor, encouraging students to engage in active learning.

The following key elements of a flipped classroom have been identified by Brame (2013):

  • Provide an opportunity for students to gain first exposure prior to class
  • Provide an incentive for students to prepare for class
  • Provide a mechanism to assess student understanding
  • Provide in class activities that focus on higher level cognitive learning

Robert Talbert (Grand Valley State University, Michigan) has identified four things he wished he knew about flipped classrooms before he began.

  • The flipped classroom has many benefits for students – but, students will not always understand those benefits automatically. Those benefits are numerous: students get practice honing self-regulated learning skills on a regular basis, they get a professionally curated set of materials to use, and so on. But … there is still a considerable amount of marketing that has to be done.
  • The biggest problem students have with the flipped classroom has nothing to do with the content of the course, but rather its simple time and task management. … I’ve become more and more convinced that an essential part of flipped learning is intentional guidance on time and task management.
  • The flipped classroom entails significantly more work at the beginning than a traditional classroom. The workload is really only heavy at the beginning.
  • The flipped classroom’s success depends on communication if you attend to the communication, the teaching “magically” gets better.

Flipped learning

In association with the ‘flipped classroom’, a definition of ‘flipped learning’ has been proposed by the Flipped Learning Network:

Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter (The Flipped Learning Network).

Questions

  • Which courses or units of study are you familiar with that use flipped classroom approaches?
  • Which preparatory material could be moved on line to make the most of contact time for discussion and activities?
  • What areas do students struggle with that could be practiced online?
  • What components of the curriculum could be replicated online so that students have access for review?

Additional resources

Alammary, A., Sheard, J., & Carbone, A. 2014. Blended learning in higher education: Three different design approaches. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 30(4), 440-454.

Bishop, J. L., & Verleger, M. A. 2013. The flipped classroom: A survey of the research. In ASEE National Conference Proceedings, Atlanta, GA. 

Bonk, C. J., & Graham, C. R. 2012. The handbook of blended learning: Global perspectives, local designs. John Wiley & Sons.

Brame, C. J. 2013. Flipping the classroom. Vanderbilt University, Center for teaching. 

Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. D. 2008. Blended learning in higher education: Framework, principles, and guidelines. John Wiley & Sons.

Picciano, A. 2009. Blending with purpose: The multimodal model. Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology, 5(1), 4-14.

Picciano, A. G., Dziuban, C. D., & Graham, C. R. 2013. Blended learning: Research perspectives (Vol. 2). Routledge.

Scott, G. 2016. FLIPCurricTurnaround learning and achievement standards for the 21st century. Australian Government, Office for Learning & Teaching.

The Flipped Classroom: Practice and Practices in Higher Education. 2017. C. Reidsema, L. Kavanagh & R. Hadgraft (Eds.). Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-981-10-3413-8.