Academic Development Perspectives of Blended Learning

Academic Development Perspectives of Blended Learning

Roisin Donnelly, Claire McAvinia
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0939-6.ch001
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Technological advances in every aspect of today’s higher education environment create a forum for academic developers to re-examine existing delivery methods for professional development. Within the context of this case study, the term ‘academic developer’ is taken to encompass the role of learning technologist. In order to be responsive and accommodate the changes, traditional instruction methods are being extended to encompass the range of Web 2.0 tools available. Debate is ongoing in the area of blended learning as to the ultimate effectiveness of technology integration. Through exploration of the experiences of two academic developers involved in the design and delivery of accredited professional development programmes for academic staff in Ireland, the case is made for an effective balance in pedagogical and technological intervention. Both were experienced in delivery of face-to-face instruction, had different levels of experience in online teaching and worked collaboratively with academic staff. Experience from the two case studies suggests that a prerequisite for embedding blended learning strategies in learning and teaching is that the instructors recognise the need for appropriate holistic academic development to provide them with not only an understanding of how best to use the technologies, but fundamentally for enhancing their understanding of how to develop effective blended learning environments.
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This chapter will discuss the findings from a comparison between two case studies evaluating the effectiveness of blended delivery strategies by two centrally supported academic developers who work closely alongside academic staff in providing specialized support. Case 1 is from a blended two year part-time programme, the MSc Applied eLearning, which is open to academic staff from across Ireland. The programme is intended for professionals with an interest in eLearning in higher education and industry practice, including eLearning specialists and co-ordinators, researchers, teachers, tutors and lecturers, trainers in commercial enterprises, policy makers and managers, who want to explore the possibilities for training, education and knowledge transfer through information and communications technology. The programme is in its third year with over 30 graduates to date across the two years and a further 18 participants currently enrolled for this current academic year. The HE participants are varied in their teaching background from Apprenticeship courses to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, and those from the commercial sector are from diverse fields; it is this combination of experiences that enriches the culture of the programme so that “thoughtful discourse” about eLearning becomes the norm.

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