Integrating Technology to Build Successful and Interactive Blended Learning Courses

Concurrent Session 3

Brief Abstract

This session will introduce three types of interaction relating to pedagogical theories and best practices, and recommend effective technology tools to achieve interaction in blended courses. Each type of interaction will be discussed alongside technology with real-world examples. Audience will take away ideas and resources to develop interactive blended learning. 


Hong Wang is a professor and serves as Associate Director of Instructional Technology Training at NOVA Online in Northern Virginia Community College, one of the largest community colleges in the United States. She has worked in higher education for over 20 years with extensive experience in course design, online teaching, technology integration, faculty training and development, and event planning and program management. She has been managing training programs on blended learning and online teaching for the college. As a Quality Matters certified online facilitator and peer course reviewer of online courses, Hong enjoys collaboration with faculty and colleagues to build a community of effective practices in online and blended courses to support student success. Hong holds a doctorate in educational technology from Kansas State University with master’s degrees in English and educational technology. She has been active in the field through professional services and presentations at national and international conferences on educational technology and online learning.

Extended Abstract

Blended learning, drawing from best practices in both online and face-to-face learning, is on the rise in higher education. Campus Technology conducted its first “Teaching with Technology” survey in 2016, and 71% of faculty respondents reported using a mix of online and face-to-face environments to teach.
Blended learning is the “thoughtful integration of classroom face-to-face learning experiences with online learning experiences” (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). The Online Learning Consortium defines blended courses as courses that integrate online with traditional face-to-face class activities in a planned, pedagogically valuable manner, where a portion of face-to-face time is replaced by online activity. Allen and Seaman (2016) categorized traditional teaching as having 0% of content delivered online and blended teaching as having 30-79% of content delivered online, but the definition appears to be broad and vague. Researchers recognized benefits of a broadly structured definition of blended learning since it allows institutions to adapt and use the term as they see fit and develop ownership of it (Sharpe, Benefield, Roberts, & Francis, 2006, p. 17). Dziuban, Hartman, and Moskal (2004) stated that “blended learning should be viewed as a pedagogical approach that combines the effectiveness and socialization opportunities of the classroom with the technologically enhanced active learning possibilities of the online environment, rather than a ratio of delivery modalities” (p. 3).

 Interaction plays a critical role in the learning process. Garrison and Shale (1990) defined that all types of education including distance education are interaction between teachers, students and contents. Palloff and Pratt (1999) informed that key of learning was interaction between students and students as well as interactions between students and faculty. Moore (1989) identified three kinds of interaction: learner-content interaction, learner-instructor interaction, and learner-learner interaction. Learner-content interaction refers to the interaction between the learner and the content or subject of study. Learner-instructor interaction refers to interaction between the learner and the expert who prepared the subject materials or some other expert acting as instructor. Leaner-learner interaction refers to the interaction between learners. While a large number of studies have been conducted across the past three decades studying interaction and its benefit on students in higher education, only limited studies have examined this facet within specifically the blended learning environment. Recent research in this area indicates a strong correlation between students’ perceptions of interactivity in hybrid courses and their ultimate grades (Owston, York, and Murtha, 2013). Although blended learning combines the “best of both worlds” with allowing both the flexibility of online learning and the personal interaction in the classroom, it still takes planning and experience to incorporate interaction into the online component of a blended course development. Alongside the planning requirements, faculty must carefully select the correct technologies to support intuitive, scalable forms of interaction.

The goals of this presentation are:

  • To discuss the importance of different types of online interaction with the blended course formats, based on research findings;
  • To introduce three types of effective, recommended interaction within the blended learning space; and
  • To share recommendations for technology tools used to achieve each type of interaction in blended courses and to achieve desirable student outcomes for learning and satisfaction

Online interaction includes synchronous and asynchronous communication. Asynchronous online activities are flexible for learners to participate since they can participate anytime when it is convenient to them by the due date. As asynchronous communication does not occur in the real time, online asynchronous communication provides learners an equal opportunity to participate, including students who are shy and students whose native language is not English. It also provides students an extended time for deep thinking and reflection, thus promotes critical thinking that is one of the core learning skills.

How to incorporate interaction into the development of a blended course? The best way is to start with the learning objectives, identify which ones are better to be achieved through online learning activities and which ones are better to be achieved through classroom activities. The following section will share some ideas and tools we use for online learning activities to increase interaction and promote active learning in blended courses.


The learner-content interaction is critical in learning. Vrasida (2000) states that learner-content interaction is “the fundamental form of interaction on which all education is based” (p. 2). Tuovinen (2000) calls learner-content interaction the most critical form of interaction because it is content that makes student learning take place. Online activities to increase learner content interaction can include online lectures, online tutorials, quality open educational resources (OER), publish-created or instructor-created instructional materials, and engaging assignments to promote active learning. Students can view the online learning materials and then discuss or apply what they have learned in the online environment. During the learning process students actively assimilate rather than passively absorb learning material. Technology tools that can be used to create engaging learning materials  include Screencast-O-Matic, MERLOT, StudyMate, SoftChalk, and EdPuzzle. Instructors can design a variety of activities for online learner – content interaction and then integrate into the classroom learning for more hands-on learning and application.


Learner-instructor interaction is communication between students and the instructor in a course. Online activities to increase learner-instructor interaction can include class announcements, online help forum, emails, web conferences for Qs and As or guest speakers from the professional field on the relevant topics students are learning. Technology tools to increase instructor presence and interaction with students include learning management system like Blackboard ( or Canvas (, VoiceThread (, Voki (, audio feedback, and web conferencing tools.

While the instructor’s interaction with students is vital, it is essential to encourage peer-to-peer communication. Online activities to increase learner-learner interaction can include asynchronous class discussions, asynchronous group discussions, wiki, group projects, peer review, study groups, and chat sessions. Learning management system discussion forums, VoiceThread, wiki and web conferencing tools can help instructors to achieve this in a blended course.


Session presenters will share real examples from their own teaching experiences and will also encourage interaction and solicit additional positive experiences from the audience. All participants will be provided with an instructional resource guide which includes a list of recommended tools that may be used to develop each type of interaction in blended learning. 



Allen, E., & Seaman, J. (2016). Online report card: Tracking online education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group.

Dziuban, C., Hartman, J., & Moskal, P. (2004) Blended learning. Research Bulletin, 7, 1-12. Educause Center for Applied Research.

Garrison, D. R., & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 7(2), 95-105.

Garrison, D. R., & Shale, D. (1990). A new framework and perspective. Garrison, D. R., & Shale, D. (Eds.), Education at a distance: From issue to practice (pp. 123-133). Malabar, F. L.: Robert E. Krieger.

Moore, M. G. (1989). Three types of interaction. American Journal of Distance Education, 3(2), 1-5.

Owston, R., York, D., & Murtha, S. (2013). Student perceptions and achievement in a university blended learning strategic initiative. The Internet and Higher Education, 18 (Special Edition) 38-46.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in cyberspace. San Francisco: Jossey-Base.

Sharpe, R., Benefield, G., Roberts, G., & Francis, R. (2006). The undergraduate experience of blended e-learning: A review of UK literature and practice. The Higher Education Academy Report.

Tuovinen, J. E. (2000). Multimedia distance education interactions. Education Media International, 37(1), 16-24.

Vrasida, C. (2000). Constructivism versus objectivism: Implications for interaction, course design, and evaluation in distance education. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 6, 339-362.