It's All in the Mix: Creating a Design Model for Blended Learning Course Redesign

Concurrent Session 7

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

A model for blended learning course redesign based on principals and best practice synthesized from a literature review is put into practice and refined.

Extended Abstract

Blended learning is becoming the default course design model at many higher education institutions. The literature on blended learning calls for effective models of blended courses based on principles of course redesign and best practices of integrated instructional delivery. This presentation reviews an emerging design model and redesign process used in three post-baccalaureate courses to transition from a face-to-face to a blended or hybrid delivery. The course transformations were based on four principles gleaned from the current research.

The term, blended learning, evokes diverse visions of the teaching and learning process, and where and how it occurs. University instructors have long used technology-mediated activities within their courses to promote student engagement with course content and ensure academic success. The number of blended courses in higher education continues to increase as does demand and it is considered by many scholars to be the emerging default course design model. More often than not, the terms "blended" and "hybrid" are used interchangeably when referring to post secondary courses. Regardless, lack of a standard definition for either has hindered research and strategic approaches to institutional implementation. Many authors cite Garrison and Vaughan's (2008) definition, which asserts that blended learning "is the organic integration of thoughtfully selected and complementary face-to-face and online approaches and technologies" (p. 148). The later requires a transformational approach to course redesign where blended learning "represents a fundamental reconceptualization and reorganization of the teaching and learning dynamic" (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004, p.97).

Multiple authors describe principles and best practices that support a transformational redesign process for blended learning. Through careful and systematic review of the literature, we selected and synthesized the following principles for blended learning course redesign:

1.Course redesign needs to focus on the objectives of the course, not on the technologies.

Garrison and Vaughan (2008) recommend that blended course redesign start by identifying "key learning outcomes - knowledge, skills, and attitudes" (p. 177) before designing learning activities that integrate online and face-to-face components. The design of a blended course should emerge from the goals and objectives of the course which focus on the content to be learned, skills to be mastered, and outcomes to be assessed. Allamary et. al. (2014) suggest using Hoffman's (2006) approach. Instructors should look at each course objective and then consider the best media for meeting each objective. McGee and Reis (2012) posit that clearly defining course objectives prior to the start of the redesign process is critical since the objectives should determine the content delivery mechanism, the pedagogical choices for activities, and the amount of time spent in online versus face-to-face pursuits. Learning outcomes are more effectively achieved when targeted by specific activities appropriately matched to delivery mode (Means, Toyama, Murphy, & Bakia, 2013).

2. Content delivery mechanisms, student engagement activities and assessments should be based on course content, learning needs of students, and pedagogical affordances of the designated technology tools.

The selection of course activities and the mediums used to deliver them is probably the most challenging of the blended learning course redesign process (McGee & Reis, 2012). The focus should be on using the content delivery method that best meets the needs of the learners while honoring the blended nature of the course (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008; Means et al., 2013). Additionally, the complexity of the content to be learned needs to be considered (Hoffman, 2006; Means et al., 2013).

3. Online and face-to-face components of the course need to be integrated into a comprehensive whole.

Hoffman (2006) claims that when redesigning a course for blended instruction, all too often, course instructors and program designers string together stand-alone components into a learning path rather than truly weaving learning experiences together. In a blended course, the face-to-face and online components must connect with each other and flow meaningfully from one medium to the next. For example, if one of the online modules for a course contains a presentation on a key topic, the face-to-face meeting can follow up with a facilitated group discussion on the content or concept. Glazer (2011) refers to this as "layering" and finds that it "works best when both parts of the course are designed for active learning" (p. 6). Students need multiple passes through the content, often through different media, to better construct knowledge. An effective weave of online and face-to-face components helps to support this goal (Massie, 2006) and improves the quality of learning experiences (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008).

4. Blended courses should begin with an orientation to teach students how to successfully navigate the online components of the course and prepare for the face-to-face meetings.

To help students feel prepared and confident in a blended course, the instructor should provide an orientation that includes review of both the online and face-to-face components of the course, and the role and function of each (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008; Hoffman, 2006).

Our goals are to share with the participants our evolving design model for blended learning course redesign based on principals and best practices synthesized from a systematic review of the literature and then put into practice. We intend to provide a detailed mapping of the references used to establish our guiding principles and the process we use to put our principles into practice. How we use student outcomes, student feedback and faculty peer review to evaluate the effectiveness of the model and guide refinement will also be explained. Participants will be invited to provide their thoughts on questions that have emerged and issues that we have yet to resolve.

This interactive presentation will include demonstrations of some of the technology employed, examples and student work from three different courses (five different course offerings over two academic years), and data from student surveys and follow up interviews. A complete reference list and the presentation materials including matrixes of content delivery methods, student activities, and technology tools for each course will be shared via a publicly viewable website