Blended learning – putting policy and principles into practice


Picture via @epipeum on Twitter

As part of today’s EPIGUEM Blended Learning Meeting, Mark Brown (from Dublin City University) gave a talk on blended learning. Mark will make his slides available on slideshare in due course. The focus was around three questions:

  • What do we mean by blended learning?
  • How do we translate the principles of blended learning into practice?
  • How do we ensure our staff stay at the cutting edge of innovation in blended learning?

He crafted his talk around a metaphor of dance, structuring his talk into three parts: let’s dance, dancing with purpose, and choreographing the best moves. He argued there was an analogy between design and dance, both based around a balance between art/craft and science.

Let’s dance

He argued that the problem is not making up steps but deciding which ones to key, quoting Mikhail Baryshinkovo. He quoted Garrison and Kanuka (2004, pg 96) who state that blended learning is the integration of face-to-face with online learning. He also quoted Vaughan’s definition (2012), which is around fundamentally redesigning for effectiveness, convenience and efficiency. But Mark argued it was important to ensure that blended learning was also about transformation. He quoted Sfard’s work on ‘adaptive blends’, i.e. that no two students are the same and that each have distinctive needs. He also quoted Barbara Means Meta Analysis of Blended Learning, I can’t find the link right not but will add later if I do find it. He argued that we need to be BOLD (Blended On-Line Digital) in our approach, and that we need to re-conceptualise campus-based teaching. 

Dancing with purpose

He stated that there were a number of elements that need to be considered when designing blended learning offerings, interactions between teachers-learners, learners-learners, and learner-content, as well as the place, pace and mode of learning. He suggested that there were four key means of learning and that all were important: listening (instructional), sharing (connectivsm), making (constructionism) and doing (constructivism).  He identified four ‘spaces’ for learning: on campus/in class, off campus/in class, on campus/out of class and off campus/out of class. He concluded by arguing that we need to blend with purpose for a seamless learning experience.

Choreographing the best moves

In the final section he listed three useful frameworks for effective design and quality assurance of creating blended learning offerings

He concluded by stating that a transformational learning design culture consists of the following elements:

  • Making explicit choices
  • Adopting a principled approach
  • Winning the hearts and minds of teachers
  • Providing the design tools for new pedagogies
  • Giving responsibility for quality back to the teacher
  • Building distinctive leadership at the programme level.