Blended learning has become a more widely discussed distance education concept and practice since the year 2000 and beyond. Also known as hybrid learning, these terms refer to more than one delivery system being used for one course. In most cases, when they use the term blended learning in a distance learning context, educators are referring to face-to-face learning combined with some elements delivered through technology. This chapter will describe the background of this development within distance learning, its benefits, and possible future trends.
Main Focus Of The Chapter
Development of Practice
Today you will find blended learning in many more places than you would have just 2 – 4 years ago. Indeed, the widespread adoption, institutionalization, and sophistication of support services among continuing education and degree earning programs is surprising. Given the history of community colleges, and their mission, student population, and faculty, it should be no surprise. However, given the relative quietness of this blended learning trend in higher education over the last 10 years (1995-2005), it is pleasantly surprising to see the mushrooming development of what has such sound pedagogical and andragogical bases. (Baker, Dudziak, & Tyler, 1994)
A review of recent books in distance learning reveals a relatively significant number devoted to the specific topic of blended learning. These books show the need, interest and development of practice in this area. Spanning the publication years of 2003-2007, at least 6 books provided insight into this article and practice in blended learning. In addition, research articles published in the educational journals on the topic have proliferated in the last five years, when previously one would have to explain the term at length to those not directly involved in the distance learning development field (Bonk, Graham, Cross, & Moore, 2005). This trend in quality research and publication would appear to confirm the interest and need for educators to understand this specific dimension of distance education.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Asynchronous / Synchronous Learning: When teachers and students are engaged in learning at the same time- meeting face to face, online or any other way simultaneously, this is termed synchronous learning. Asynchronous learning stands for non-simultaneous learning and affords the convenience of learners and teachers being able to log-in, read material, engage in discussions, post assignments, etc, whenever is convenient for their schedule, commitments and time zones. Technology options can extend the possibilities in many directions for both asynchronous and synchronous learning through for example online discussion boards, chat, video conferencing, podcasting, etc
21st Century Literacy Skills: An aggregate of skills commonly focusing on information technology skills, information literacy skills and critical thinking skills (Gura & King, 2007). The importance of these skills is demonstrated in the importance for success in daily, academic and workplace success in the 21st century. Individual interpretations of the term also exist which focus on K-12 educational processes rather than skills (Partnership for 21st Century Learning (n.d.)), however in general the primary definition is referred to when the term is used
Wiki: A universal definition is that a wiki is a webpage that can be easily changed by anyone. A web-based interface that has been developed to most fully encourage and ease collaboration. More than the collaboration of a web-based bulletin board, a wiki allows users to add, delete and edit pages in the environment to name just a few of the fundamental construction functions possible
and content creation technologies such as blogs: wikis and podcasts. Controversy regarding the term exists as the original vision and capabilities of the Web included some of these abilities in fundamental ways although they were not widely adopted at the time
Web 2.0: Development of the World Wide Web to include more Web-based programs, otherwise known as hosted services, collaborative and easier content creation technologies (O’Reilly, 2005). Examples of Web 2.0 technologies include Goggle ® applications which are run over the Internet rather than needing to be downloaded
Knowledge Management: “discovery and capture of knowledge, the filtering and arrangement of this knowledge, and the value derived from sharing and using this knowledge throughout the organization” (Bernbom, 2001, p. xiv)
Vlog: Video blog, usually a short video narrative or story created for and posted on the Internet for public viewing. Technical formats dominating in 2007 include Quicktime movie files (*.mov), and MPEG4 files because they are relatively high quality and can be small in file size
Podcast: Audio or video files hosted on the web but served up via a special scripting language (XML) which provides automated and usually free subscription to users. Therefore users can elect to “subscribe” to a podcast and every time they open their program to listen to them (e.g., iTunes ®, MusicMatch ®, Windows Media Player ®, etc.) the latest episodes of the podcasts will download for them without any action on their part. Podcasts may be listed to on a computer or transferred to a mobile listening device such as a MP3 player. There are many educational podcasts available. (King & Gura, 2007)
social networking sites: such as Linked-In and MySpace