While blended learning** has been around for a while now, it is often the benefits*** that are focussed on rather than some of the issues (including an increased workload for facilitators, technological problems, and poor communication – Garrison & Vaughan, 2007) that providers of blended learning need to be aware of up front, and how these might be addressed to maximise the benefits for learners.

The Blended Learning Synchronous Learning project aimed to “identify, characterise, and evaluate technology-enhanced ways of bringing together on-campus and geographically dispersed students and engaging them in media-rich synchronous collaborative learning experiences” (source). As a result of the project, 7 case studies have been developed that “provide a better understanding of the issues that impact on the effectiveness of blended synchronous learning, which in turn can be used to enhance the practice of educators” (source), while also providing “practical guidelines for staff” (source).

The case studies

I’d highly recommend dipping into these case studies if you are already involved in facilitating blended learning, or are thinking about it:

Footnotes

** Heinze and Proctor (2004) define blended learning as “learning that is facilitated by the effective combination of different modes of delivery, models of teaching and styles of learning, and founded on transparent communication amongst all parties involved with a course” (p. 21)

*** Garrison and Vaughan (2007) go on to identify a variety of benefits for learners including:

  • increased student use of course resources outside face-to-face sessions;
  • opportunities to apply skills, concepts, and theories in authentic contexts;
  • opportunities for self-directed learning;
  • integration of online and in-class learning; variety of assignment / assessment types and formats;
  • flexible access to interactive tools and resources that meet a range of learner needs; and
  • further peer to peer interaction and critical dialogue. (Adapted from Garrison, & Vaughan, 2007, p. 35)

References

  • Garrison, R., & Vaughan, N. (2007). Blended learning and course redesign in higher education: Assessing the Role of Teaching Presence from the Learner Perspective. Retrieved May 12, 2007, from http://www.ucalgary.ca/
  • Heinze, A., & Proctor, C. (2004). Reflections on the use of blended learning. Paper presented at the Education in a Changing Environment, University of Salford, UK. Retrieved June 10 2005, from the Salford University Web site: http://www.edu.salford.ac.uk/her/proceedings/papers/ah_04.rtf.

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About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ (http://www.ethosconsultancynz.com/). I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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