Blended Learning: The Best of Both Worlds

Blended Learning: The Best of Both Worlds

Karen Weller Swanson (Mercer University, USA) and Mary Kayler (George Mason University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-906-0.ch048
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Abstract

As institutions look for ways to increase enrollment and students seek greater flexibility in their learning environments, blended learning is emerging as the best of both worlds. This chapter will discuss why both students and instructors choose blended learning (BL) and the benefits of BL pedagogically. The layers of software required to support BL will be briefly described for the purpose of supporting a discussion of the tools used to design online learning. The role of assessment and the need to create communities of practice within a BL environment will be illustrated. With a changing emphasis from software and function to one of learning outcomes, this chapter will present Learning Activities Management Systems (LAMS) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards which focus on the advancement of instructional design. ISTE will be introduced as a framework for students and instructors to gauge their teaching and learning goals.
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Introduction

The use of blended or hybrid learning in vocational and higher education creates multiple opportunities that are not available in the traditional classroom setting. Dzuiban, Hartman and Moskal (2004) define blended learning as “courses that combine face to face (F2F) classroom instruction with online learning and reduce classroom contact hours” (p. 2). The reduction of seat hours is the key to this definition because any course could enhance its pedagogical delivery and not reduce time in a traditional F2F format. These authors suggest that blended learning is much less about geography (where the student is sitting) and more about a rich learning experience that combines the best of both worlds.

Young (2002) suggests that currently up to 80-90% of courses contain an online component. The United States Department of Education reports the results of a meta-analysis comparing traditional F2F and online learning in k-12 settings:

Online learning has become popular because of its potential for providing more flexible access to content and instruction at any time, from any place. Frequently, the focus entails (a) increasing the availability of learning experiences for learners who cannot or choose not to attend traditional face-to-face offerings, (b) assembling and disseminating instructional content more cost-efficiently, or (c) enabling instructors to handle more students while maintaining learning outcome quality that is equivalent to that of comparable face-to-face instruction (USDOE, 2009, p. 1).

However, the process of planning instructional learning opportunities for students can be daunting and haphazard if not approached using a framework to guide course development. For the purpose of this paper we will use the definition of blended learning (BL) as one that combines any degree of online and face-to-face instruction (Graham, 2004). The authors will also incorporate the work of one organization that has approached blended learning from both and teaching and learning perspective. The International Society of Technology in Education is a premier association for educators that are concerned with advancing the effective use of technology in PK-12 schools and in higher education.

The best of both worlds is achievable when blended learning shifts the paradigm from teacher centered to learner centered. A well-designed blended learning environment increases interactions between student and teacher, student-to-student, and students to resources. Blended learning also increases the ability to assess student progress as well as their products in a more easily articulated manner (Dzuiban, Hartman, & Moskal, 2004).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-Assessment: An act in which one evaluates their performance based on a previously determined set of objectives. The evaluation is supported by evidence provided by the individual. The purpose of self-assessment is to provide a constructivist approach for an individual to measure their contribution or performance on a task.

Blendedness: The degree to which course seat hours are reduced and the degree of online sessions and technology support learning is incorporated into the structural course design. It can be considered on a continuum between all face to face to the opposite extreme of complete online delivery.

Course Management Systems (CMS): Are software programs which provide instructional management tools. These tools include communication tools such as email, blog and discussion links. CMS also support pedagogical tools such as podcasts, assessment and assignment options.

Community Of Practice: A group of individuals who meet around a common topic which hold specialized vocabulary and ways of knowing. It is within this group that one learns the intricacies of the topic and also helps to build knowledge in other participants.

Virtual Learning Environment: Is the software systems available to deliver course content and also contains communication elements.

Learner-Centered Pedagogy: This refers to the process of teaching and learning in which students are at the heart of curriculum design, classroom interaction and evaluation techniques. For example, students are provided choice of readings, assignments and assessment tools in a class.

Learning Management System (LMS): Is “a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, and reporting of training programs, classroom and online events, e-learning programs, and training content” (Ellis, 2009).

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