Blending Educational Models to Design Blended Activities

Blending Educational Models to Design Blended Activities

M. Beatrice Ligorio (University of Bari, Italy), F. Feldia Loperfido (University of Bari, Italy), Nadia Sansone (University of Bari, Italy), and Paola F. Spadaro (University of Bari, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-898-8.ch005
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The authors claim that the potentialities of the socio-constructivist framework can be fully exploited when a blended approach is introduced. Our blended model does not only mix offline and online contexts but it also combines several pedagogical theories and techniques (Progressive Inquiry Model, Jigsaw, Reciprocal Teaching, Collaborative Communities, and Dialogical Knowledge). The particular mix the authors propose generates a specific pedagogy through which a set of blended activities is designed. Some analyses conducted on blended courses for higher education and professional development where blended activities were tested are briefly discussed. These analyses concern: (a) the students’ participation in blended context, (b) their expectations about the blended course and their perception about the processes of collaborative knowledge building, (c) the impact on students of role-taking, which is one of the blended activities included into the blended course. Results show that our blended approach has an impact on how students interact and talk in groups. At the end of the course, students display a collaborative discourse strategy mainly based on: (a) completing each other’s sentence, (b) complex trajectories of participation, (c) changes of the perception of the self and of the group and (d) the effects of role-playing.
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A few researchers have revealed limitations and failures of online learning. Ackerman and his colleagues (Ackerman, 2009; Ackerman & Goldsmith, 2008) discovered a lower achievement of students when reading digital materials instead of printed ones. Kurtz and Amichai-Hamburger (2008) reported a sense of loneliness perceived when physical contact with teacher and peers is lacking. Finally, Shemla and Nachmias (2007) revealed that students lack sufficient skills to deploy in an educationally relevant way when learning with online technologies. The blended approach seems to be able to exploit the potentiality of online learning and to overcome some of these problems. However, blending online and offline contexts is not sufficient per se; instead, specifically designed pedagogical models are needed to achieve effective blended courses.

When designing theories for blended learning, specific problems may arise. For instance, time management requires particular attention and the educational material used for a course needs to be selected and organized in a proper way. At the same time, lecturing cannot be delivered without taking into consideration what happens online. Finally, since each of the devices available online (chat, forum, shared whiteboard, etc.) sustain specific type of interaction, each of them should be used for proper objectives.

In our opinion, a new pedagogy is needed to support efficient blended courses. Such pedagogy should be crafted by mixing already existing models proven to be efficient with appropriate adaptations of these models to consider both offline and online contexts. In the following paragraphs, we will report on a few models we used as inspiration. These models are mostly based on a constructivist vision of learning, stressing the fundamental role of social interaction on effective learning. Then, a specific blended course will be described designed upon this pedagogy.

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