Blended Learning

For guidance around blended and online learning as a result of the Covid pandemic, please refer to the Teaching Online Toolkit , City Learning and Teaching Hub and Business Continuity Guidance.

Introdution to Blended Learning Resource

To help staff in designing an effective blended approach, LEaD have developed an online resource to support staff in planning, designing, teaching and evaluating blended learning programmes, modules and activities. Start with the links in this introduction section to learn more about why you should consider a blended learning approach and how the framework can help you in identifying the blended learning approach that is right for you. You can then move through the other sections to find information and resources to help you in developing your blended learning module. 

 What is blended learning?

Blended learning is the integration of resources and activities in an online environment with face-to-face teaching that leverages the benefits of each environment to produce a cohesive learning experience for students. Blended learning can increase the opportunities for students to interact with module content and engage and motivate students with active learning in both face-to-face and online environments.

 Why should I consider a blended learning approach?

Blended learning is increasing in popularity as an effective way to meet diverse learner requirements and offer increased flexibility for students through the thoughtful integration of resources and activities in an online environment with face-to-face teaching. Alammary et al. (2014, p.440) in their paper on blended learning in higher education found that "[t]he question now is not whether to blend or not; it is how to design an effective blend."

 Pedagogical benefits of blended learning

How can blended learning respond to educational challenges and enhance teaching?

Increasing student numbers - ensuring quality within growth 
As a programme grows in reputation and popularity, staff will need to think about how to enhance current provision for sustainability, and ensure the same positive educational experience for larger numbers of students.

Changing delivery - helping structure student time away from the classroom
While time on campus is a key focus of teaching activities, ensuring that students feel well supported in their independent study, is also an essential part of delivering a high quality and transformational educational experience. A well-structured online course, with a variety of diagnostic and tailored material, allows students to feel both supported outside the classroom, and empowered to take control of their own learning.

Expanding education - increasing access to our programmes and specialist expertise
Moving towards a blended learning approach increasingly enables students from all over the world to access City’s educational offer bridging location and time to allow staff and students passionate about a common subject to come together. The flexibility and possibilities for the tailoring this provides  is also attractive for students looking for more specialist continuing professional education.

Flexible learning - supporting students on placement or working
The flexibility that blended learning offers is particularly helpful when supporting students on placement or who are working at the same time as studying. The ability to access materials and activities at their convenience, is key to students feeling supported as they emerge into a professional context, or to those working to maintain pace with their programme and continue their studies.

Personalising and varying content - responding to differing needs while raising the standard
Our students come to us with a wide variety of prior educational paths and experiences. Blended learning allows you to define multiple paths through material, and/or present the same information in a variety of formats. The ability to direct students to the material that is directly relevant to them, based on their prior interactions, helps students make the most of their time, and makes complex material more approachable. Students for whom English is not their first language, or those with Specific Learning Differences (SpLDs) may also benefit in particular from accessing content in a variety of formats with the ability to review material.

Depth and breadth - extending understanding and material online
Blended learning allows you to focus deeply on problematic material and ‘thorny’ professional and ethical issues. Giving students more activities and resources online around these subjects allows them to practise their understanding independently, and may also be a key part of supporting the development of more meaningful lecture experiences, where the practical or ethical implications of certain professional questions can be explored togethe
r. Activities such as scenarios, video demonstrations, interviews with experts or formative diagnostic tests, all provide ways for students to apply what they have learnt and reflect on how this applies in the real world.

Communication and community - being present and creating collegiality
Blended learning not only gives staff more flexible ways of communicating with students, but also provides more opportunities for students to collaborate with each other and communicate with staff. This contact with subject experts, and peers throughout the course of study, is an important part of the supportive and transformative experience that City offers its students by giving students the opportunity to drawn on their experiences- be it through forums on Moodle or more original assignment design.

Developing digital literacies - employment, digital citizens
The professional world that students will encounter once they leave university is increasingly permeated by technology and digital work. Within this context, as we seek to “enable our graduates to remain distinctive and competitive in the employment market” (City, University of London, 2015), it is important that we provide an environment in which students can advance and practice their skills within a safe digital environment. Beyond the facility of using a computer or web enabled device, students may also benefit from activities which explore the academic validity of certain material online, engaging their critical faculties and equipping them to confidently negotiate the vastness of information now available.

References

City, University of London. (2015) The City Strategic Plan 2012-2016 [online] Available from: http://www.city.ac.uk/about/city-information/the-city-vision/the-city-strategic-plan-2012-2016/overview/key-strategic-theme-01-education (Accessed: 23.06.15)

 Securing support for your blended approach

As you will see from the following sections of this resource, blended learning can enable the extension of material and the learning space, but may require substantial initial development and adjustment. Both in terms of making sure that your colleagues can support you and ensuring that you are in line with the University's quality and standards framework. Speak to your Programme Director, or Head of Department or Division as appropriate - depending on how wide-reaching and radical your redesign is - to secure support for your development.

Even if activities, resources and courses created online can scale well for large number of students, be re-used, or re-purposed, the time and expertise required to build these can be challenging to find on your own. Make sure your teaching team is aware of and understands the initial time commitment as well as the benefits of adopting a blended learning approach.

A change to delivery or format may also require different skills and resources. Blended learning programmes/modules often require a high degree of facilitation online, and students may require more support, so you will need to bear this in mind to make sure you have set aside sufficient staff to really give students a great educational experience - online and face-to-face. It is worth noting that a change to a blended learning approach may also involve a change to Module Specifications as there may be a change to your outcomes, assessment or contact hours. Typically time spent moderating and responding to online forums does not count in your contact time; while synchronous teaching activities - for instance a live Moodle Chat activity - are included in contact time.

 How do I get started with blended learning

To help staff in designing an effective blend, LEaD have developed an online resource to support staff in planning, implementing and evaluating blended learning programmes, modules and activities. We are using a blended learning design framework to help staff identify the approach that is most appropriate for their requirements, their level of experience and time availability. It identifies the challenges with each approach and provides ideas on how to mitigate these challenges in order to develop an effective blended learning activity or module.

 When would I use this resource?
  1. When you have identified a teaching or learning challenge that would be more suited to delivery in an online environment. These are often low-impact approaches where you introduce an online activity to an existing module.
  2. When you would like to support, complement or extend on activities undertaken in face-to-face sessions. These can be low-impact approaches with the addition of an online activity or medium-impact approaches where an online activity replaces an existing activity. The addition of a medium-impact approach can result in a reduction in face-to-face time or enable you to make more effective use of your face-to-face time.
  3. When you are developing a new blended learning module/programme or when you are redesigning an existing module or programme. This would require a high-impact approach and provides the opportunity to make the most of face-to-face and online modes of delivery.

This resource can be used as stand-alone resource to support you in implementing a blended learning approach. This resource can also be used with an Educational Technologist as part of an educational technology project and we also use this resource as the basis of a blended learning workshop that can be run with programme teams.

Identifying your Challenge

The Identifying your Challenge section helps you to identify blended approaches to meet some common pedagogical challenges. Click on a challenge and you can then select which approach suits your requirements to find some suggestions of how you meet the challenges through the integration of online activities.


Planning

The Planning section provides you with an overview and links to specific resources to help you in implementing a blended learning approach.


Designing and Developing

The Designing and Developing section provides you with guidance on how to engage students in blended learning modules through the design of your online environment and activities.


Teaching Online

The Teaching Online section provides you with guidance on how to support students in blended learning environments.


Evaluation

The evaluation section provides some suggestions on how to evaluate the effectiveness of your blended learning approach and how to use technology to deliver different forms of evaluation.




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