Blended Learning for Adaptation to Needs

Blended Learning for Adaptation to Needs

Joan E. Aitken (Park University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-880-2.ch005


Blended learning is an instructional method that opens the channels of communication in the learning process so that there are increased communication strategies. This chapter discusses two different approaches to using blended learning as a way of adapting to program needs. In one example, pharmacy instruction is provided by top faculty to distance sites. In another example, blended learning is used to reduce instructional costs and increase student enrollment in a graduate program in the humanities. The differences in approaches are because of the different purposes for the use of blended learning. Blended learning can be useful in this time of dwindling resources and budget constraints as a method for improving instruction designed to reach more students and distance locations.
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This section will consider historical information that has led to blended learning. In the professional pharmacy example, technology use has evolved over many years through the leadership of Information Technology (IT) and Academic Affairs. In the graduate humanities example, the university developed two administrative branches of instruction—onground and online—which operate separately. Blended learning has become a challenge that requires collaboration between two different administrative units.

Across higher education contexts around the world, the lack of institutional support and financial restraints have prompted universities to seek ways to improve and transform education (Vega-Jurado, Fernandez-de-Lucio, & Huanca, 2008). Given the global economic crisis, more institutions may turn to blended learning. Sometimes blended learning is considered little more than a way of updating education, while in other cases, it is considered a way to provide financial support to an institution (Boyle, 2005). Clearly, blended learning is more than the old distributed learning modes of correspondence courses or televised courses and more than the one-way teacher lecture course.

Optimally, blended learning should improve both face-to-face and online instruction. The model of blended learning--which uses technological support rather than replacement of traditional instruction—holds promise for student learning (Condie & Livingston, 2007). Enrollment in distance education courses is exploding (DeNeui & Dodge, 2006), sometimes to the point of seeming out of control with limited faculty training or supervision, faculty beyond of their comfort zone, and other concerns. So in a time when the quality of e-courses is sometimes questioned, blended learning has become an increasing popular way of improving the quality of online instruction (e.g., Boyle, Bradley, Chalk, Jones, & Pickard, 2003; Oravec, 2003; Schweizer, Paechter, & Weidenmann, 2003). Concurrently, resources for education are dwindling during the economic hard times, so blended learning may be a stimulus that takes advantage of the resources available, encourages faculty creativity, and adapts to students with special needs (Marschark, Sapere, & Pelz, 2008).

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