Introduction to Blended Learning Practices

Introduction to Blended Learning Practices

Elizabeth Stacey (Deakin University, Australia) and Philippa Gerbic (Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-296-1.ch001
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Blended learning is now part of the learning landscape in higher education, not just for campus-based courses but for courses designed for students studying at a distance as well as for communities of professional learning and practice. The impact of this concept in university teaching and learning can be seen in the appearance of practice focused texts for example, Littlejohn and Pegler (2007) and, more recently, Garrison and Vaughan (2008). Blended learning is now constantly positioned as one of the emerging trends in higher education (e. g. Allen, Seaman and Garrett, 2007; Graham, 2006; Garrison and Kanuka, 2004) and therefore is of particular strategic importance in the future of universities, their students and teachers as well as in the widening community of professional education and training. As an introduction to this book, this chapter will review the growing literature about blended learning and will discuss some of its key issues. The authors begin by introducing the concept of blended learning and its many meanings and attempt to clarify the definitional discussion. Issues in teaching and learning in both campus based and distance settings are then described followed by a discussion of the way blended learning provides a process for establishing communities of learning and practice, particularly for professional learning. Much of the literature about professional learning and learning communities has only just begun to identify aspects of blended learning practices as significant in their field, a gap this book is helping to fill.
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Conceptual Underpinnings, Definitions And Frameworks

When writers attempt to define blending learning in a substantive way, the literature is marked by enormous variety in approaches. One of the simplest representations is that of the combination of physical and virtual environments, for example, Bleed’s (2001) idea of the innovative and interactive combinations of “technology, architecture and people” through the right mix of “clicks and bricks” (2001, p.18). Many definitions refer to combining face-to-face and online learning, for example, Graham (2006) who adds a historical perspective to his working definition when he discusses the convergence of two quite separate learning environments. These are traditional face-to-face environments that are essentially synchronous and based on high fidelity human interaction, and distance environments that are asynchronous and have been traditionally reliant on text driven and independent learning. The advent of information communications technology (ICT) has created the potential for integration of these two systems and hence his preferred and working definition of “combining online and face-to-face instruction” (2006, p.4). This integration enabled blends across four key dimensions that Graham (2006) identifies as space, time, fidelity and humanness.

The training sector has claimed the term blended learning for over a decade (Maisie, 2006) and though Cross (2006), also from the corporate training sector, writes that in this context blended learning is only a transitory term, it is a term which has gained ongoing currency and aroused great interest in the higher education sector and appears to be surviving its “buzz word” status and taking “its rightful place as signifying a particular idea or practice” (Mason & Rennie, 2006, p. xvii). Where blended learning was traditionally defined as consisting of a face-to-face component followed by an online component, this has changed even in the training sector where Cross (2006) describes a local model and a distance model which blend either more or less online interaction with face-to-face meetings with the term denoting flexibility and a range of technology mixes.

Littlejohn and Pegler (2006) explicitly acknowledge the role of ICT with their concept of ‘blended e-Learning’ and while they acknowledge historical antecedents similar to those of Graham, they present their concept as one with two different components, being e-Learning and blending. This approach enables them to consider each of these concepts separately, thus avoiding the implicit approaches in much of the literature i.e. the introduction of an e-Learning activity into a face-to-face setting which is considered as a single phenomenon with little effort being made to distinguish between the issue of e-Learning and that of blending. Littlejohn and Pegler’s (2006) identification of these two elements adds clarity to the discussion about blended learning and enables better consideration of the complexities of technologies, different settings and learning.

Blended learning can be placed somewhere between fully online and fully face-to-face courses and one of the definitional issues is where this might be on such a continuum. In their report on blended learning in the USA, Allen, Seaman and Garrett (2007) define blended or what is also termed hybrid learning as courses where 30 to 79% of the content is delivered online. While a numeric description seems to offer clarity, this is somewhat dependent on the meaning of “content”. Vaughan (2007) and others argue that where an online element simply supplements a face-to-face course, then this is not blended learning and there must be a reduction in face-to-face time. Littlejohn and Pegler (2007) talk about ‘strong” and ‘weak” blends (p. 29) where courses are, respectively, almost exclusively e-Learning or contain very little e-Learning, but they do not attempt to quantify this in any way. Garrison and Kanuka (2004) argue that the real indicator of blended learning is not the amount of face-to-face or online learning but their effective integration within a course.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Robin Mason
Elizabeth Stacey, Philippa Gerbic
Chapter 1
Elizabeth Stacey, Philippa Gerbic
Blended learning is now part of the learning landscape in higher education, not just for campus-based courses but for courses designed for students... Sample PDF
Introduction to Blended Learning Practices
Chapter 2
Philippa Gerbic
Online discussions are now available as a pedagogical option in blended learning environments in universities. Much of the research to date has... Sample PDF
Including Online Discussions Within Campus-Based Students' Learning Environments
Chapter 3
Ruth Geer
This chapter describes an investigation of strategies for fostering higher order cognition in a blended learning environment. The exploration, which... Sample PDF
Strategies for Blended Approaches in Teacher Education
Chapter 4
Mary Simpson, Bill Anderson
A teacher education programme previously taught in distinct on-campus and distance forms was redesigned to take advantage of the affordances offered... Sample PDF
Redesigning Initial Teacher Education
Chapter 5
Ana A. Carvalho, Zdena Lustigova, Frantisek Lustig
This chapter describes two European projects that respond to blended learning by integrating innovative technologies into blended learning... Sample PDF
Integrating New Technologies into Blended Learning Environments
Chapter 6
Guglielmo Trentin, Steve Wheeler
This chapter provides a further two European perspectives on blended learning. The first section is an overview of the ways in which the concept of... Sample PDF
Teacher and Student Responses to Blended Environments
Chapter 7
Peter J. Smith, Elizabeth Stacey, Tak Shing Ha
The majority of research and literature in collaborative learning online has been focussed on groups of students organised into units of study by an... Sample PDF
Blending Collaborative Online Learning with Workplace and Community Contexts
Chapter 8
Terrie Lynn Thompson, Heather Kanuka
The growing need for professional development to help university instructors with the adoption of online teaching is being propelled from several... Sample PDF
Establishing Communities of Practice for Effective and Sustainable Professional Development for Blended Learning
Chapter 9
Julie Mackey
Blended learning is examined via the experiences of teachers participating in qualification-bearing online professional development courses while... Sample PDF
Virtual Learning and Real Communities: Online Professional Development for Teachers
Chapter 10
Suzanne Riverin
This chapter examines the use of blended learning in an online community which supported teacher professional development in the province of... Sample PDF
Blended Learning and Professional Development in the K-12 Sector
Chapter 11
Faye Wiesenberg, Elizabeth Stacey
This study explores the similarities and differences between Canadian and Australian university teachers’ face-to-face and online teaching... Sample PDF
Blended Learning and Teaching Philosophies: Implications for Practice
Chapter 12
Gayani Samarawickrema
This chapter focuses on the factors relating to adopting blended learning by teaching academics and the associated social world around technology... Sample PDF
Blended Learning and the New Pressures on the Academy: Individual, Political, and Policy Driven Motivators for Adoption
Chapter 13
Gail Wilson
This chapter draws on a collective case study of six faculty members working in ICT-enhanced blended learning environments at a large regional... Sample PDF
Case Studies of ICT-Enhanced Blended Learning and Implications for Professional Development
Chapter 14
Cathy Gunn, Adam Blake
An accredited course in Academic Practice aligns with university and national strategic goals related to teaching and learning enhancement within a... Sample PDF
Blending Technology into an Academic Practice Qualification for University Teachers
Chapter 15
M. Brooke Robertshaw, Heather Leary, Andrew Walker, Kristy Bloxham, Mimi Recker
For teachers in the 21st Century it has become critical that they develop the skills to be able to teach in a world that is being transformed by... Sample PDF
Reciprocal Mentoring "In The Wild": A Retrospective, Comparative Case Study of ICT Teacher Professional Development
Chapter 16
Conclusion  (pages 298-311)
Philippa Gerbic, Elizabeth Stacey
The conclusion draws together the main themes identified under the sections of the book with a synthesis of the recommendations presented by the... Sample PDF
About the Contributors