Universiteit Leiden

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Teacher Professional Development in Higher Education

Blended learning

Blended learning is all about combining face-to-face instruction with online education.

Blended learning: what’s in a name?

The term crops up often enough in relation to education, but what is it exactly? And perhaps more importantly, how can you use it? 

Blended learning is about designing good courses by carefully weighing the pros and cons of using Information and Communication Technology. ICT applications offer a wealth of possibilities for getting students actively engaged in the subject matter. That can be either individually or in a (small) group and can take the form of things like online assignments, quizzes, discussion forums and posting videos. 

Blended learning is all about combining face-to-face instruction with online education. For example, students can be asked to watch an instructional video before a lecture, while later the instructor can zoom in on the information presented in the video during the lecture, where there is opportunity for questions and discussion. Students can come to class prepared and can also watch the video as many times as needed. In this way blended learning also helps create learning paths that are more personalised. 

For optimum results, the ICT aspect shouldn’t be an add-on, but an integral part of the course. That requires some careful thinking about how ICT can complement and facilitate the learning activities when preparing a course. In this way blended learning is part of the design process for the course. 

At the heart of this approach is, that thought needs to be given to what the most effective blend is for each individual situation: what works for this course? The instructional triangle leads the way here: learning objectives, working methods and testing need to fit together.

What is a flipped classroom?

In a flipped classroom, students are expected to prepare the material to be covered independently, using a web lecture, a video or some other type of online instruction. That leaves enough time over during the contact sessions to work on the assignments actively. In this variant of blended learning as well, what is important is making a link between the contact sessions and the students’ online preparation. The focus is on the learner, who plays an active role. 

This idea is not new: students are also expected to prepare for traditional lectures and laboratory courses. The term flipped classroom is used mainly to focus attention on the possibilities that technology offers for independent preparation.

What can I do with blended learning?

Blended learning can be employed for a large variety of learning situations. For example, formative testing is often used to give students the opportunity to determine whether or not they have mastered the subject matter. It also gives instructors insight into students’ progress, and they can use information obtained from a digital formative test to adapt their lecture. In this way they also take advantage of the input given by students online.

How can I get started with blended learning?

Currently, work is being done on a large-scale Blended Learning project as part of Leiden University’s ICTO programme. Within this project, the principles of Blended Learning are being implemented in three major departments (International Studies, Psychology and Law). The project runs from 2013 to 2016.

Who can I turn to for questions about blended learning?

One good tip when you’re setting up a ‘blended’ course is to start small. The advisers at ICLON will be happy to support you in all stages of designing your course and the digital learning environment. That can include aspects like defining objectives, coordinating instructional activities with other working methods in the course you are giving, and designing or monitoring the digital learning environment.

More information: dr. M.J.J.M. (Maarten) van de Ven

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