Designing Blended Learning Environments: Exploring What and How to “Blend” to Support Student Success

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Brief Abstract

With broad adoption of technology in teaching and learning, blended learning is increasing in higher education, particularly at the COVID-19 pandemic time. This session will share practical ideas and resources about what and how to “blend” to optimize student learning and support student success through designing meaningful blended learning environments.


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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

With broad adoption of instructional technology in teaching and learning, blended learning is increasing in higher education. While blended learning may mean different things to different people, research (Allen & Seaman, 2010; Garrison & Kanuka, 2004; Graham, 2006) shows classroom face-to-face learning and online learning as two essential elements in blended learning. Graham (2006) defined blended learning as combining “face-to-face instruction with computer-mediated instruction” (P. 5). Garrison and Kanuka (2004) defined blended learning as “the thoughtful integration of classroom face-to-face learning experiences with online learning experiences” (P. 96). Allen and Seaman (2010) defined a blended learning course as follows: “Course that blends online and face-to-face delivery. Substantial proportion of the content is delivered online, typically use online discussions, and typically has a reduced number of face-to-face meetings” (p. 5), with a suggestion that the proportion of online content delivery should be 30-79% in blended learning. Moskal, Dziuban, and Hartman (2013) stated that blended learning emerged as “the dominant label for an educational platform that represents some combination of face-to-face and online learning” (p. 15). To sum up, blended learning is instruction taken place in a traditional classroom setting augmented by computer-based or online learning activities to replace some classroom seat time.

Research has discussed benefits of blended learning, such as increased access and flexibility for learners (Bonk, Kim, & Zeng, 2006; Graham, 2006; Moskal, Dziuban, & Hartman, 2013), more effective pedagogy (Graham, 2006; Joosten, Barth, Harness, & Weber, 2014), enhanced cost-effectiveness (Graham, 2006; Moskal, Dziuban, & Hartman, 2013), improved student success and satisfaction (Moskal, Dziuban, & Hartman, 2013), and increased faculty satisfaction (Moskal, Dziuban, & Hartman, 2013). Increased flexibility indicates that students have some level of control over time, place, path, or pace of learning. The online components of blended courses make learning flexible in terms of time and place by using asynchronous instead of synchronous communication, allowing students to complete asynchronous online work at their own time and in their own space. Meanwhile, increased flexibility in terms of time and place in blended learning environments also leads to an enlarged transactional distance (Moore, 1993) that refers to a psychological and communication space. While the face-to-face component brings students together and enables both verbal and non-verbal communication during the in-person classroom portion of a blended course, faculty still need to consider how to facilitate interaction and optimize student learning in a blended course. Adoption of blended learning indicates restructuring course design with the goal of enhancing engagement and extending access in online learning environments.

Either you are adopting enabling blends to increase access or enhancing blends to incrementally improve pedagogy or transforming blends to create fundamental paradigm shift in your institution (Graham, 2006), blended learning design faces its own challenges with two learning environments involved, such as incorporating flexibility, stimulating interaction, facilitating students’ learning process, and fostering an affective learning climate (Boelens, De Wever, & Voet, 2017). What to "blend” and how to “blend” to achieve “best of both worlds” is a question many faculty often ask while designing blended courses. Based on research as well as practice in blended learning design and teaching, this presentation will introduce and discuss different ways to blend two learning environments, with a focus on different types of assessment and learning activities as well as their advantages for the classroom and online learning environment. Through this session, the audience will learn useful ideas about what to blend and how to blend with reasons behind to address challenges in designing blended learning environments to support student success. Whether you are new or experienced in blended learning, you will take away ideas and resources for effective practices in blended learning design to optimize student learning and support student success.

Level of Participation

The presentation will start with a brief introduction to blended learning and blended learning design, followed by a discussion on different types of assessments and learning activities in face-to-face and online environments to show what and how to blend to address different challenges in blended learning, and end with questions from the audience and resource sharing. The presentation will engage audience with questions and an interactive activity during the presentation. The audience will also have a chance to ask questions and share relevant experience with other attendees of the presentation through comments. The audience will take away an online resource collectively shared by the presenter and attendees.

Session Goals

After this session, attendees will be able to identify challenges in blended learning design. They will be able to explain advantages of different assessments and learning activities in the classroom and online environments as well as apply blending strategies to optimize student learning in blended learning environments. Finally, they will be able to collaborate with the presenter and other attendees to share ideas and resources on blended learning design that have proven successful in their own blended courses and programs. The audience will take away an online resource that intends to promote effective practices in blended learning design.


Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2010). Class differences: Online education in the United Stated. Sloan Consortium. Accessed Sept. 9, 2020.

Boelens, R., De Wever, B., & Voet, M. (2017). Four key challenges to the design of blended learning: A systematic literature review. Educational Research Review, 22, 1-18.

Bonk, C. J., Kim, K.-J., & Zeng, T. (2006). Future directions of blended learning in higher education and workplace learning settings. In C. J. Bonk & C. R. Graham (Eds.), The handbook of blended learning: Global perspectives, local designs (pp. 550-567). San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

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

Graham, C. R. (2006). Blended learning systems: Definition, current trends and future directions. In C. J. Bonk & C. R. Graham (Eds.), The handbook of blended learning: Global perspectives, local designs (pp. 3-21). San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

Joosten, T. N., Barth, D., Harness, L., & Weber, N. L. (2014). The impact of instructional development and training for blended teaching on course effectiveness. In A. G. Picciano, C. D. Dziuban, & C. R. Graham (Eds.), Blended learning: Research perspectives (Volume 2, pp. 173-189). New York: Rouledge.

Moore, M. G. (1993). Theory of transactional distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical principles of distance education (pp. 22-38). London: Routledge.

Moskal, P., Dziuban, C., & Hatman, J. (2013). Blended learning: A dangerous idea?. Internet and Higher Education, 18, 15-23.