The topic for our first week is “Understanding Blended Learning.” Put simply, a blended course is one in which online learning replaces some portion of face-to-face instruction (Thompson, 2014). The blended learning model allows for the individual interaction that we value and is our strength, but it also allows faculty to utilize a growing number of online tools to extend learning beyond the classroom. But how do you create a quality(!) blended learning course?
While reading the first chapter of the BlendKit Reader, I was transported back in time to the “Systematic Instructional Design” course I took while a graduate student. In the reading, I was reminded that designing a blended course is actually not very different from designing any other course. The first steps are still defining course goals, analyzing learners and context, and writing learning objectives. In fact, the chapter argues that in a blended environment these tasks are more important because it is easy to inadvertently create an unmanageable workload for you and your students and/or a learning experience that does not match your intended learning objectives. After writing learning objectives, the next step in the design process is to create learning activities that will help students meet them (and provide a mechanism for you to know they accomplished them!).
But here is the point of departure. In a blended course, the instructor then analyzes each activity to determine if it can and should be delivered online. Our course instructors provided us with a Venn diagram example that demonstrates how you might approach this task. This is, I believe, new and difficult to many. I see it as the perfect time to collaborate with an instructional technologist – someone who knows what online tools are available for learning activities, understands the benefits and drawbacks to each, helps research new tools, teaches how to implement them, and assists students with technology questions during the semester.
The design process is not over… but by accomplishing these initial steps, you will have a solid foundation for a successful blended course. Next week’s module is on Blended Interactions. Stay tuned! -Jessica