While Blended learning is growing in popularity within higher education, you can ask any two faculty what it means, and you’re likely to receive two different definitions. Here at the CTL we take a holistic approach and define blended learning as “the strategic combination of face-to-face and online learning experiences.”
UCF’s Blended Learning Toolkit (arguably the most concise collection of resources on blended learning) defines blended courses as, “… classes where a portion of the traditional face-to-face instruction is replaced by web-based online learning.” Your next question is likely, “How much of the face-to-face instruction must be replaced by online coursework?” The answer will vary greatly by class, discipline, and learning objectives. The Online Learning Consortium (formerly, the Sloan Consortium, a professional organization dedicated to postsecondary online learning) defines blended learning as a course where 30%-70% of the instruction is delivered online.
Benefits of Blended Learning
When properly implemented, blended learning can result in improved student success, satisfaction, and retention. Further, blended courses have proven to be among the most popular choices for students at institutions where they are offered. At first glance, this popularity seems intuitive because blended courses allow students and faculty to take advantage of much of the flexibility and convenience of an online course while retaining the benefits of the face-to-face classroom experience. Yet, where blended courses have succeeded, they have most often done so when strategically aligned with your department’s, school’s, or college’s mission and goals.
The U.S. Department of Education’s recent “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies” noted that: “Students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction” (p. xiv) and, notably, “Instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction than did purely online instruction” (p. xv).
Not only do students perform better in blended courses, but the electronic resources inherent in the modality offer other advantages as well. For example, student performance analytics can be used to study and better understand student learning. Data analytics can also identify students who need early intervention, thus increasing retention. The online tools available in blended courses can also significantly enhance student engagement, ensuring that all students participate in course discussions and benefit from collaborative learning.
Enhance In-Class Interactions
Face-to-face interactions in blended courses take many different forms; they include working problem sets, investigating case studies, small group work, discussions, and mini-lectures. Interactive web-based or digital technologies support the course learning goals; they include student response systems, software that automatically grades problems, assignments that result in digital products, wikis, blogs, and video or screen-cast lectures.
One type of blended course, the “flipped course,” moves content traditionally presented through lectures to digital media format that students study before class so that they can spend class time working problems or doing case studies.
The following guides complement a blended learning approach:
- Active Learning
- Case-Based Learning
- Discussion-Based Teaching & Learning
- Experiential Learning
- Flipping Your Classroom
- Project-Based Learning
Blended Learning at BU
Blended Learning success stories are available by visiting http://www.bu.edu/digital/256-2/
Get Involved in Blended Learning
The CTL offers two opportunities for faculty teaching (or interested in teaching) blended courses at BU. The Learning Technologies Development Grant Program is designed to aid faculty in the adoption or development of learning technologies and demonstrate a connection between the proposed project and teaching strategies that have been shown to enhance student learning at the undergraduate or graduate level.
The CTL’s Blended Learning Challenge is an initiative which supports a cohort of faculty members from across the University as they develop innovative and technology-rich educational strategies to enhance students’ learning in an existing or new course. Instructors participating in this program can propose to transform an existing traditional course into a blended course. Participating faculty represent an array of disciplines affecting both graduate and undergraduate students. Participants will receive support from CTL staff for the (re)design, delivery, and evaluation of their courses.
The Office of the Associate Provost for Digital Learning & Innovation was established in 2016 to strengthen Boston University’s position as a world-class higher education institution devoted to learning innovation. The CTL is a partner in this initiative.