Planning Blended Learning: Using a “magical” course template

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

In this session we share blended course templates and planning tools. Participants will walk through a mixed map activity guiding them to consider levels of blending. We will discuss quality assurance for blended courses that fosters successful learning environments. Participants will determine the characteristics of a template for their context.


Heidi Held, D.Ed., is an Instructional Designer here in eLDIG in the Smeal College of Business s at The Pennsylvania State University. She completed her D.Ed. in Administration and Leadership - Higher Education from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2012. She received her M.Ed. in Adult Education from Pennsylvania State University in 2004. Heidi also teaches part-time for Purdue University. Heidi enjoys designing courses, creating video shorts, and working on assessments. Heidi's research interests include (1) benchmarking needs of adult students obtaining a Bachelor's degree; (2) student civic engagement; and, (3) understanding the use and effect of prior learning assessment. Heidi has worked for the Pennsylvania State University for over 14 years in program design, development, and delivery in a variety of capacities. When Heidi is not working at Smeal, she is painting, taking care of her family, or writing both fiction and non-fiction.
Dr. Stephanie Edel-Malizia is currently an Instructional Designer for Penn State University, with over 20 years of experience as a leader in instructional technology spanning the k-20 realm. She completed her Doctorate of Education at Delta State University with the dissertation Design and Implementation of Faculty Development for Student Required Internet Use. As a faculty member at Delta State, Dr. Malizia worked as an Instructional Designer and Instructor. Stephanie has ten years of experience as a Pennsylvania Department of Education certified Instructional Technology Specialist, working eight of those years as the Director of Instructional Media and Technology Services for a regional Educational Service Agency. She is also certified as a Superintendent of Schools and a 2013 graduate of the Institute for Educational Leadership Fellows program. Stephanie has taught graduate courses in instructional technology and pedagogy for Penn State DuBois, St. Bonaventure University, East Stroudsburg University, and Clarion University. Her conference presentations include the European Conference on E-Learning, Online Learning Consortium, Educause, The Teaching Professor Technology Conference and the International Society for Technology in Education.

Extended Abstract

The combination of the face-to-face and online environments in blended learning presents both opportunities and challenges in the course design process. Before beginning to decide on the content or technology you want to incorporate in your blended course you must decide what you want the ultimate outcome to look like. A course template provides a framework for designing, building, and delivering a blended course.

During this session, we will be discussing how each of us has experience in using course templates to create blended learning. We will share our reasons and methods for planning for and preparing a template that ultimately results in the final learning product.

During this session, we will introduce participants to the use of a mixmap to assist in the organization of what the mix of a course will be between online, in person, or some combination for each course element. Participants will be asked to think about each course element including instruction, content materials, interactions (student-student, instructor-student, and student-content), activities, and assessments, and map these elements as to how they will occur in the blended course. We will provide a blank template modified from the UCF Blended Toolkit and utilized in planning Blended Learning with Penn State faculty.  

We will also share examples of completed Mixmaps. The Mixmap is then used as a foundation to create an extended curriculum map which includes for each module of instruction, the learning objectives, resources, activities, and assessments, and how those occur, either during in-person learning or asynchronous learning. 

When planning the instructional “blended” of a course it is important to consider the planned rhythm or cadence of instructional methods. With careful planning, similar instructional approaches and methods can be planned in a systematic way that helps keep students organized and improves course success. For example, if a course meets every M-W-F, perhaps asynchronous learning occurs every Friday, with some type of assignment or assessment. We will share examples of visuals used to convey course rhythm in course syllabi.

During the session we will be asking participants to think through the following questions with us:

  1. What do we want students to be able to do/be competent in at the end of the semester?” How will they show that?
  2. What are the goals of the course?
  3. What technology will promote those goals?

We will encourage thinking backward from the final course goal and making the focus on the actual technology last. We will conduct a brief review of the creation of objectives and the need for their alignment when blended activities are selected. We will take participants through filling out a Blended Course Integration chart. Participants will do an exercise to determine the best way to integrate synchronous and asynchronous content/methods... keywords will be defined and example activities will be shared.

Using the mix map and integration chart we will work together to brainstorm how the participant's LMS can assist with integrating the plan and mix they have decided is right for them. We will discuss:

  1. What isn’t working in my current course? 
  2. Is there a way to move that piece online that would improve the outcome? 
  3. Can my LMS facilitate that specific improvement?

We will draw on some research about how using an LMS to manage blended learning will improve and streamline the learning process. Research will be shared that confirms the LMS use to be of benefit to students.

Research shows that continuous quality assurance for blended learning is an important aspect of implementing and maintaining successful blended courses and programs. Many tools are available for use as self-applied standards to help create and maintain high-quality blended learning. We will share two rubrics participants can implement: the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) Quality Assurance Rubric for Blended Learning which recognizes factors associated with high quality blended learning courses, and the Quality Matters Rubric intended for assessing course quality and assisting the course design of online and blended courses for higher education. We will also share a checklist for quality adapted from BlendKit.

With the idea in mind that certain elements are required for Quality Blended, learning participants will review three examples of a strong development template, and work in small groups to discuss and outline their own development template based on their institution's needs. The following elements in the examples will be featured:

  • Home Page
  • Syllabus
  • Orientation
  • Content
  • Discussions
  • Assignments
  • Activities

A folder of resources and template examples will be curated and shared in the OLC conference system for download.