Technological advances and widespread access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) have facilitated the rapid growth of blended learning approaches in both higher education and corporate training contexts. In 2002, the president of Pennsylvania State University expressed his belief that blended learning was “the single greatest unrecognized trend in higher education” (Young, 2002, p. A33). At the same time, the American Society for Training and Development also identified blended learning as one of the top 10 emergent trends in the knowledge delivery industry (Finn, 2002). Since then, the visibility of blended learning environments has increased dramatically in both formal education and corporate training settings. At the third annual Sloan-C Workshop on Blended Learning and Higher Education, Frank Mayadas, the program director for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, predicted that “by 2010 you will be hard pressed to find a course that is not blended” (Mayadas, 2006). There is increasing interest in the concept of blended learning as evidenced by greater numbers of books, journal articles, and trade magazine articles that directly address issues related to blended learning. This article will provide an overview of current models of blended learning and provide references to the most recent resources in this emergent area of research and practice.
The use of the term blended learning is relatively new in both higher education and corporate settings. In higher education, the term “hybrid course” was often used prior to the emergence of the term “blended learning,” and now the two terms are used interchangeably. Because term is relatively new, there are still ongoing debates regarding the precise meaning and relevance of the term (Driscoll, 2002; Graham, Allen, & Ure, 2003; Laster, 2004; Masie, 2005; Oliver & Trigwell, 2005; Osguthorpe & Graham, 2003). However, the most commonly held position is that blended learning environments combine face-to-face instruction with technology-mediated instruction (Graham, 2005; Graham et al., 2003). This definition highlights the ongoing convergence of two archetypal learning environments: the traditional face-to-face (F2F) environment with the distributed (or technology-mediated) environment (see Figure 1).
Blended learning combines traditional face-to-face and computer mediated instruction
There are many reasons why a blended approach to learning might be selected. The three most common reasons for blending listed in the literature are:
To increase learning effectiveness
To increase convenience and access
To increase cost effectiveness
Often educators adopt a blended approach in order to explore tradeoffs between more than one of these goals simultaneously (e.g., increasing the convenience to students afforded by an asynchronous distributed environment without completely eliminating the human touch from the F2F environment). While blended learning is appealing to many because it enables one to take advantage of the “best of both worlds” (Morgan, 2002; Young, 2002), blended learning environments can also mix the least effective elements of both F2F and technology-mediated worlds if not designed well.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Performance Support Systems: Systems that are designed to improve human performance through many different kinds of interventions including but not being limited to instructional interventions.
Return on Investment (ROI): A measurement evaluating the gains versus the costs of an investment.
Hybrid Course: Another name for a blended course. Typically a course that replaces some F2F instructional time with computer-mediated activities.
Blended Learning Environment: A learning environment that combines face-to-face and computer-mediated instruction.
Technology-Mediated Learning Environment: Another name for a distributed learning environment.
Distributed Learning Environment: A learning environment where participants are not co-located and use computer-based technologies to access instruction and communicate with others.
Affordances: Features of an environment or artifact that “afford” or permit certain behaviors.