The blended learning design framework

 

We have drawn on Alammary et al.’s (2014) three design approaches to Blended Learning to provide a framework for staff at City, University of London on how to approach the design for blended learning modules.

Alammary et al. (2014) present three distinct design approaches for developing blended learning modules.

  1. Low-impact approach: adding online activities to an existing course.

  2. Medium-impact approach: designing an online activity to replace an existing activity.

  3. High-impact approach: developing a blended module from the outset or redesigning a face-to-face or web-enhanced module as a blended learning module.

We selected this framework to support staff in developing blended learning it considers time, staff experience and knowledge when implementing a blended learning approach. Recent UCISA (University and College Information Systems Association) surveys into Technology Enhanced Learning in UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have highlighted that the biggest barrier to staff engagement with educational technology is time.

“Lack of time remains the leading barrier to TEL development, consolidating its position at the top of the list which it has held dating back to the 2005 Survey.” (Walker et al. 2014, p.2.)

In addition “lack of academic staff knowledge” (ibid) is the second highest barrier to staff engagement with educational technology according to the 2014 survey.

Low-impact approach benefits and challenges

Medium-impact approach benefits and challenges

High-impact approach benefits and challenges


Low-impact approach benefits and challenges

 A low-impact approach is where an online activity is added to an existing module.

Benefits for lecturers

  • Lecturers with limited experience can identify the parts of the module that could be improved through the integration of an online activity.

  • Is a quick and easy way to integrate online activities as it does not require the lecturer to review their entire module.

  • It is driven by a pedagogical rather than a technological requirement.

  • When the activity is thoughtfully integrated there is a low risk of failure. (Alammary et al. 2014,  p.444)

Challenges and mitigating the challenges for lecturers


Challenges for lecturers

Mitigating the challenges

It can be challenging to identify the most appropriate tool to support the outcomes of the new online activity.

Contact the Educational Technology Team to discuss your requirements. We can support you in selecting the most appropriate technology to help you meet your requirements.

If a low-impact blend is used regularly there is a risk of producing a "course-and-a half". (Kaleta et al. 2007, p.127 cited in Alammary et al. 2014)

When you use a low-impact approach; it is useful to review your module to ensure that it is constructively aligned and that your resources and activities support your students in meeting their outcomes. Once you have implemented one low-impact approach it might be appropriate to move to a medium-impact approach.

Lack of time to develop an appropriate online activity.

While it can take time to develop and integrate an online activity, it aims to address a part of the module that is not working so can improve the student experience.

Lack of incentives for developing online activities.

Engage support from your Programme Director when exploring a low-impact blend.

Moderating and supporting a low-impact activity can increase the lecturers' workload.

When designing your online activity consider how much time you can dedicate to supporting it. Be clear with students about how much time you will be spending supporting the activity online.

Table 1: Low-impact approach; challenges for lecturers. Adapted from Alammary et al. (2014,  pp.444-445)



Medium-impact approach benefits and challenges

A medium-impact approach is one where an online activity replaces an existing activity. The rationale for this approach is that some activities are more effective when delivered and facilitated online.

Benefits for lecturers

  • Activities are delivered in the most effective way in order to engage and motivate students.

  • Activities are designed in order to meet learning outcomes.

  • Provides lecturers with opportunities to gradually redesign their module as this approach can be applied incrementally.

  • Provides lecturers with opportunities to explore new pedagogical approaches. (Alammary et al. 2014,  p.446)

Challenges and mitigating the challenges for lecturers


Challenges for lecturers

Mitigating the challenges

Requires confidence to change teaching approach.

Start with a small change to build confidence with this approach. Contact LEaD to discuss your teaching approach and seek advice from your programme team.

Requires technical knowledge in order to implement new online activities.

Contact the  Educational Technology Team to discuss training and support available in using educational technology effectively to meet your learning outcomes.

Thoughtful integration of the online and face-to-face activities is difficult to get right initially and may require multiple iterations in order to work.

Adopting a phased approach to the medium-impact approach can help with the integration of the online and face-to-face elements.

It can be difficult to identify which parts of the module to replace without experience of teaching on the programme which can make this approach challenging for new lecturers.

Discuss teaching and learning approaches with your programme team. Review module feedback and assessment results to help identify which parts of the module students struggle with. Contact LEaD to get support from your School's academic and educational technology liaison staff.

A medium-impact approach requires time to develop.

Secure support for this approach from your Programme Director.

Table 2: Medium-impact approach; challenges for lecturers. Adapted from Alammary et al. (2014,  pp.445-447)


High-impact approach benefits and challenges

  A high-impact approach involves developing a blended module from the outset or redesigning a face-to-face module as a blended learning module.

Benefits for lecturers

  • Provides the opportunity to maximise the benefits of a blended learning approach.

  • Provides the opportunity to review the module and eliminate any issues in the current iteration of the module.

  • Ensures that activities and assessments are aligned with learning outcomes.  (Alammary et al. 2014, p.447)

Challenges and mitigating the challenges for lecturers


Challenges for lecturers

Mitigating the challenges

Considerable time investment required.

Engage support from your Programme Director and plan ahead for high-impact approaches. We recommend you start planning for high-impact approaches 6 months to 1 year prior to when you plan on delivering the module/programme to students.

High level of technical knowledge and willingness to learn new technologies is required.

Engage support from your Programme Director and Line Manager in order to attend relevant professional development (e.g. Enrolling on relevant modules of the Masters in Academic Practice and attending Educational Technology Workshops).

Expertise in how to integrate technology effectively in your teaching is required.

Engage support from your Programme Director and Line Manager in order to attend relevant professional development (e.g. modules on the Masters in Academic Practice; including Curriculum Development and Evaluation and Technology Enabled Academic Practice).

Changing your teaching approach can be a high-risk strategy if you've not had experience of delivering blended learning modules in the past.

Building up to a high-impact approach through implementation of a series of small and medium-impact approaches can improve success of a high-impact approaches.

Engage students in the design of blended learning modules to get their feedback on how to effectively design and deliver a module that meets their requirements.

It can be difficult to identify which activities are best suited to online delivery and selecting the most effective tool to develop an activity to meet your learning outcomes.

The Educational Technology Team (ETT) can help identify outcomes that can be appropriately met using technology and give advice on the design of activities.  

Table 3: High-impact approach; challenges for lecturers. Adapted from Alammary et al. (2014,  pp.447-448)


 Benefits and challenges for students

It is worth noting that the impact of online activities on the student is dependent on the type of activity, its design and integration into the module. So a low-impact approach has the potential to have a positive impact on students if thoughtfully developed and integrated.

Benefits for students

  • Online activities are informed by pedagogical need and so aim to improve parts of the module that are not working.

  • Online activities can support, complement and extend on activities undertaken during face-to-face lectures and seminars and provide opportunities for students to consolidate and discuss content delivered during face-to-face lectures.

  • Online activities can offer more flexibility for students in the time, pace and place of participation.

  • Developing online activities can help promote active learning in face-to-face environments. For example, taking a flipped approach which moves direct instruction of core knowledge away from the lecture room, with the help of technology, enables you to use face-to-face teaching time to check understanding, increase interaction and to concentrate on concept engagement. (Hamdan et al. 2013)

  • Developing online activities can help promote active learning in online environments through collaboration and participation in authentic activities which provide students with access to real-world scenarios in a safe environment.

  • Online activities can help increase student ownership of learning.

  • Online activities can help scaffold students' independent study time. (This is particularly useful for 1st year undergraduate students.)

  • Online activities can help provide personalised content and feedback to students.

  • Online activities can provide access to international or a broader range of external expertise.

Challenges for students

The challenges for students in engaging with online activities centre on lack of time, confidence and/or motivation to participate in the activity. Blended learning also requires more active engagement from students which they might feel unprepared for. To mitigate these challenges, be clear with students about the purpose of online activities and how they support the outcomes of the module and complement and integrate with your face-to-face lectures and seminars. Articulate your expectations about how much time students should spend on the activity and ensure that students are given an opportunity to develop the technical skills required in order to engage successfully with the online components. The Educational Technology Team have developed a self-directed online induction module for students to become familiar with a range of online activities.

References

Icons are provided by icons8 as Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported. www.iconsdb.com