Master in Innovative Tourism Development: A Blended Learning Experience in the Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo

Master in Innovative Tourism Development: A Blended Learning Experience in the Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo

Sandra Vieira Vasconcelos (Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo, Portugal), Ana Balula (University of Aveiro, Portugal) and Pedro Almeida (University of Aveiro, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0039-1.ch016


This chapter analyses a Portuguese HEI's first experience with blended learning. Focusing on the Master in Innovative Tourism Development currently being held at the Superior School of Technology and Management of the Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo, it presents the institutional background and rationale behind the course's implementation, identifying its strengths and weaknesses, as well as areas of potential development. Based on an evaluation research carried out throughout the course's first three editions and that involved students, faculty and institutional leaders, it summarizes the main results of a long term-study, putting forth a set of recommendations for improvements and defining potential areas of intervention in future editions of the course.
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Over the last decade, in order to meet the challenges of an increasingly globalized world and technological evolution, HEI have had to adapt and review their instructional models and offer. This is particularly evident in Europe, where most institutions are also facing the need of complying with the principles of the Bologna Declaration and the improvement of the overall quality and quality assurance processes in Higher Education. Therefore, moving away from the idea that education in European institutions is mainly based on conservative models, traditionally relying on face-to-face and expository models, more and more HEI are gradually shifting towards the adoption of more student-centred and flexible approaches.

Overall, these changes have had an impact on the way stakeholders perceive the curricula and content distribution. Considering that learning no longer relies solely on the number of contact hours and classroom activities, most HEI have turned to ICT in order to enhance learning experiences, facilitate off-campus interaction and develop students’ autonomy and collaboration skills.

Considered to “offer great opportunities for using student centred approaches” (Bielschowsky et al., 2009, p.10), distance and blended learning have come to play a very important role in HEI, as they support the creation of constructivist learning environments “where learners (…) work together and support each other as they use a variety of tools and information resources in their guided pursuit of learning goals and problem-solving activities” (Wilson, 1996, p. 5).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Viana do Castelo: City in Northern Portugal.

Moodle: (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment): An open source course management system used by educational institutions around the world to provide an interface for distance learning.

SWOT: An analysis and planning method (or matrix) used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a project.

Tourism Education: Field of study involving Tourism Programs, training and curriculum.

Blended Learning: The practice of combining both online and face-to-face learning experiences when teaching students.

Distance Education: Term used to define the field of distance learning. It is a method of delivering education that allows students to study in their own time, at the place of their choice, without being physically present in a traditional setting such as a classroom.

Program Evaluation: A systematic method for collecting, analyzing, and using information to answer questions and assessing the processes and/or outcomes of a program or project aiming at improving it.

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