An Examination of a Blended Skills Lab Model to Teach Practice to Online Students

Concurrent Session 1
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Brief Abstract

Using Carman's five constructs of blended learning (live events, online content, collaboration, assessment, reference materials), this interactive workshop explores the use of a blended skills lab model for teaching practice skills to online students. The model will be used as a case study, offering implications for others to consider. 



Dr. M. Sebrena Jackson is an Assistant Professor and Director of the MSW Program at The University of Alabama School of Social Work. She has over 12 years of social work education experience. She is a leader in online social work education. Dr. Jackson has taught across the social work curriculum as well as across social work program levels. Her primary areas of research interests include transition-age foster youth and online social work education. She has presented at local, state, national, and international professional conferences on these topics. Dr. Jackson has over 20 years of post-MSW practice experience with families and children in a variety of settings. She is a licensed clinical social worker in the states of Georgia and Alabama. She founded the National Social Work Enrichment Program (NSEP) in 2008. NSEP seeks to encourage foster youth to consider social work as a college major while inspiring youth to graduate high school and enroll in college. Dr. Jackson was honored as the NASW-GA 2009 Social Worker of the Year and the NASW-AL 2017 Social Worker of the Year for her work with transition-age foster youth. She received her BSW from Tuskegee University, her MSW from Clark Atlanta University, and her Ph.D. from the Whitney M. Young, Jr. School of Social Work at Clark Atlanta University. She resides in Tuscaloosa, Alabama with her husband, Dr. Ronnie Jackson.
Dr. Bullock has several years of experience in the human services field. While working at Atlanta Housing Authority, she successfully assisted families with identifying and moving into mixed income communities. As a clinician at St. Jude’s Recovery Center she assessed and counseled dually diagnosed clients, assisted with developing treatment goals with clients and facilitated groups that focused on the disease of addiction. During her employment at Fulton County Department of Family and Children Services, she worked with children in foster care, as well as, worked with birth families utilizing case management skills, attending court hearings, developing court documents and participating in multidisciplinary team meetings. She earned a doctoral degree in Social Work with an emphasis on policy, planning and administration of human service organizations at Clark Atlanta University. Through her matriculation at Clark Atlanta University, she conducted research that examined teaching effectiveness in higher education, gained knowledge on strategies that strengthen community-based partnerships and developed proficiency as an instructor who promotes lifelong professional growth. Her current research includes technology acceptance in social work education and practice as well as mental health service utilization among college students. Dr. Bullock initiated her career in academia at Kennesaw State University’s Wellstar College of Health and Human Services. As an adjunct instructor of Social Work, she had the opportunity to teach master-level courses in the School of Social Work. Within this capacity, she taught courses such as Clinical Practice with Abused and Neglected Children, Community Mental Health, and Social Welfare Policy to adult learners. Dr. Bullock is currently an Associate Professor at the University of the District of Columbia’s and serves as the Program Director for the BSW program.

Extended Abstract

The growth of online education has significantly impacted higher education over the last two decades. Online education provides opportunities for widening and expanding access to education, particularly social work education (Kurzman, 2013). This growth of online education can also be seen as an effective response to the need for an increased workforce of social work professionals. Despite the growth of online education, some educators continue to express concerns regarding the effectiveness of online courses, especially online practice courses. A blended approach may be a great strategy to address these concerns.


Courses and programs that combine internet-based and traditional face-to-face education components are often referred to as hybrid, web-enhanced, mixed mode, or blended (Miller & King, 2003). The Online Learning Consortium's (2016) definition of blended (hybrid) online courses is one where most course activity is completed online, but there are some required face-to-face instructional activities such as lectures, discussions, labs, or other in-person learning activities. For purposes of this paper, the terms "blended" and "hybrid" are used interchangeably. Blended or hybrid courses are offered by nearly four out of five (79%) public institutions of higher education in the U.S. (McGee & Reis, 2012). Research suggests that blended courses can have a positive impact on efficiency, convenience, and learning outcomes (Stein & Graham, 2014). Blended courses may enhance student satisfaction and engagement (Kuo et al., 2014). When properly implemented, blended learning can result in improved student success, satisfaction, and retention (University of Central Florida, 2018). Blended courses have proven to be popular choices for students because they allow students opportunities to have the best of both worlds, the flexibility of an online course and the benefits of the face-to-face classroom (Drysdale et al., 2013).


Jared M. Carman, a leader in instructional technology, developed an instructional design model for blended learning. Applying the learning theories of Keller (1987), Gagné (1985), Bloom (1956), Merrill (2002), Clark (2002), and Gery (2002), Carman's framework proposes five constructs (live events, self-paced learning, collaboration, assessment, and reference materials) that are important elements of a blended learning process. Live events are instructor-led learning events in which all learners participate at the same time, such as in a live virtual classroom. Self-paced learning addresses learning experiences that the learner completes individually, at their own speed and on their own time, such as interactive weekly assignments, internet-based training, as well as synchronous activities, such as discussion boards, reading assignments, and quizzes. Collaborations involve engagement with peers to develop problem-solving skills (Carman, 2005). Assessment, the fourth component of the Carman model, is a measure of the learners' knowledge and includes measurements of whether or to what extent learning has taken place. Finally, reference materials or performance support materials allow students to access reference materials that enhance learning retention and transfer. This includes online videos and optional content that is not covered in a traditional class due to time constraints, such as PDA downloads and PDFs.


Carman’s (2005) five key ingredients should be considered by programs in the development of blended learning courses. These ingredients may be especially helpful when developing blended skills labs to teach practice content to online students. This interactive workshop session is designed to examine the use of a blended skills lab model for teaching practice skills to online students. Questions such as the following will be addressed: How do I structure the live events? What tools should I use for collaboration? How do I effectively divide the content into asynchronous and synchronous sessions? These questions and many more will be answered in this session. The skills lab model will be used as a case study, offering implications for others to consider as they formulate similar models for their online students.

Level of Participation:

This session will be highly interactive and engaging. Tools such as Kahoots and Nearpod will be used for participant interactions throughout the presentation. Winners of Kahoots will win a special prize.

Session Goals:

Individuals attending this workshop will be able to discuss the benefits of blended learning with special attention to Carman's five constructs of blended learning. Attendees will also explore a blended skills lab model that can be implemented in their online course or program. 


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Carman, J. M. (2005). Blending learning design: Five key ingredients.

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Drysdale, J. S., Graham, C. R., Spring, K. J., & Halverson, L. R. (2013). An analysis of research trends in dissertations and theses studying blended learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 17, 90-100.

Gagné, R. M. (1985). The conditions of learning (4th ed.). Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

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Kurzman, P. (2013). The evolution of distance learning and online education. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 33(4/5), 331-338.

McGee, P., & Reis, A. (2012). Blended course design: A synthesis of best practices. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(4), 7-22.

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Miller, T. W., & King, F. B. (2003). Distance education: Pedagogy and best practices in the new millennium. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 6, 283-297.

Online Learning Consortium. (2016). Negotiating the many definitions of hybrid, online classes.

Stein, J., & Graham, C. R. (2014). Essentials for blended learning: A standards based guide. Routledge. University of Central Florida [UCF]. (2018). Blended learning toolkit.