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*Wk 1-Overview of blended + online

Blended and online instruction are hot topics, but what are the real benefits and challenges associated with these models?

And what is "blended" anyway? To some, it just means a hybrid of face-to-face (f2f) and online. 

Blended learning is more than just using online technology in class or doing whole class activities with online course materials though. It often substitutes for some in-class contact hours (seat time). Most importantly, blended learning gives students a chance to work independently and to experience a variety of learning modalities that are best suited to their needs and preferences.

What is blended? “Combin[ing] f2f classroom instruction with online learning and reduced seat time” - EDUCAUSE “Substantial proportion of the content is delivered online.” The Sloan Consortium defines blended courses as having between 30% and 79% of their content delivered online. - Allen, Seaman and Garrett  “25-75% of the content is delivered online and the remainder delivered face-to-face” - Quality Matters Student-centered, active learning, both f2f and online

hands on work iconPost a comment with your thoughts about what "blended" means (or should mean). Is it improtant to have a consensus definition of this?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Online Instruction

Some of the obvious benefits of online instruction are that it allows students greater access to more courses, helps facilitate differentiated learning, and give teachers more options in how they teach. Online learning allows for teachers and students to teach and learn anywhere or anyplace.


Some of the disadvantages can include different expectations for teachers, student access issues, and the fact that online learning may not suit every learner.


hands on work iconPost your own thoughts about the advantages and disadvantages of online instruction for your own student population. (If you have a blog and want to write about this there, just post a link.)

Task Discussion

  • Mireille   Oct. 3, 2011, 2:32 p.m.

    Hello Everyone

    I'm a bit behind will get become more behind this week as Canadian Thanksgiving is this upcoming weekend for me

    I will read the comments and then become more participatory next week.

    Re Blended Classroom.  As everyone as said it is a combination of both classroom (face to face) and online.  In my world of corporate education it's mostly online, very little classroom left.  I can pretty much do everything from home (thank goodness)  The traffic where I live is beyond awful. 

    I would be interested in how you as teachers incorporate blended learning and how your curriculum and lesson planning needs to evolve because of it.

    I do agree that just because technology is available doesn't mean it can be used.  I'm really not in favor of depending on technology alone.  Kids to need to learn how to listen, how to collaborate and technology is not necessary for that unless you are connecting with another classroom in another country 

  • karen   Sept. 27, 2011, 7:51 p.m.

    Do you think it's valuable to have a "consensus definition" for what blended means? Rob Darrow has been having some interesting conversations about this here and here.

    I'm not normally a big fan of "consensus definitions" (though you might think otherwise if you've read my rants on "open") but there seem to be many people using the term "blended" in very different ways these days.

    One definitions I don't subscribe to is that it is just a mix of online and f2f (that describes most tech integration these days).

    I've also seen some online classes lately that seem very "old school" -- textbook readings and even lectures (online) with very little student self-direction, interactivity, etc. I guess that's technically "onlilne" or "blended" but seems to me missing all the benefits!

    I think the biggest advantage of online and blended is differentiation. This makes all the difference in the world to so many learners.

  • Mark Woolley   Sept. 28, 2011, 1:56 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Sept. 27, 2011, 7:51 p.m.

    I am also concerned about the online learning component looking very traditional. That is OK if that style of learning worked for those learners however I agree there are many benefits that are bypassed. 

  • richard   Sept. 28, 2011, 7:30 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Sept. 27, 2011, 7:51 p.m.

    I think that you're right about old school/online. There's a good article here which discusses how blended learning very often just migrates all of the shortcomings of f2f instruction to an online format. Partly the reason is that many online LMS are difficult to use and institutions don't support teaching staff very well in developing content, so it's a lot easier for a teacher to take all of their regular lesson plans and support material and put in into blackboard in a linear, week-to-week format. At this level, the only advantage of blended learning is convenience and access, but there's no flexibility or differentiation.

  • karen   Sept. 28, 2011, 7:56 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Mark Woolley   Sept. 28, 2011, 1:56 a.m.

    You are right -- different things work for different learners. It's all about giving lots of options I think.

  • karen   Sept. 28, 2011, 8:02 p.m.
    In Reply To:   richard   Sept. 28, 2011, 7:30 a.m.

    Good point about the challenges of getting most teachers to develop their own materials. it takes a lot of time and talents that not eeryone has.

    One of the projects on my "drawing board" is to put together some pre-packaged Moodle courses (built from open content) that teachers could then use on their own system, add to, reorder, edit, etc. I think that it's a lot easier to use something like Moodle as a "remix engine" than to create from scratch.

    Thoughts? Anyone has experience working with teachers with this kind of model?

  • Nan Lynnette   Oct. 3, 2011, 10:20 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Sept. 27, 2011, 7:51 p.m.

    In Michigan, our new governor has a vision for providing education "any time, any place, any way, any pace". That is, it is a vision for k-12, 24/7 accessibility through online learning. I'm in the process of trying to determine what it might look like for the primary grades in particular!  Any thoughts?

  • karen   Oct. 3, 2011, 4:51 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Nan Lynnette   Oct. 3, 2011, 10:20 a.m.

    Nan, I have an online learning project I'm working with that asked me this year to help develop some blended materials for 1st and 2nd grade! Wow -- this grade level isn't my strength anyway. :) We've put together some very usable materials though and are just beginning to use them with students.

    Obviously, it looks very different from secondary projects, but in some ways it turned out easier as well. There is much less content. We're using a lot of multimedia and hands on activities -- something that should really be done at all grade levels, I suppose.

    We'll see how it goes as we start to use this with students.

  • SandyJ   Sept. 22, 2011, 9:49 a.m.

    Blended instruction is teaching face to face along with online components.  Using blended methods, students become "self learners" by being responsible for seeking information and then providing that information in some digital format (images, words, podcasts, video, for example) to demonstrate thier learning.

    Blended learning provides avenues for teachers to incorporate different teaching methods through differentiated instruction.  Students benefit since self-learning is considered "true learning."   Students enjoy learning with they they already know-video, music, computers, or a cell phone.  It is up to the teacher to assist and to move students pass USING a device to learning WITH a device-(computer, camera, cell phone or iPad for example.

    Some disadvantages include teachers not being prepared to use technology to teach.  Many use it as time-filler or babysitter.  Some do not want to give up the lecture or the text book.  They need to be shown different ways to teach and engage the 21st century learner.

  • Greg   Sept. 21, 2011, 5:53 p.m.

    I think "blended" is a general tern that fill the giant continuum of learning from 100%online to traditional face-to-face teaching.  One can position oneself in the continuum in a variety of ways and in a variety of environments.  The key/ trick is finding the right combination for your students and their needs.  I think further defining "blended" would only restrict the possibilities that one would have and would psychologically restrict some of the out-of-the-box thinking that is occuring in many schools.

    I think one of the main benefits of blended learning is allowing for differentiated instruction.  While teachers have talked about this for many years, it takes an experienced teacher to implement it well in a F2F environment.  However the addition of online resources that can specifically target a student's needs makesdifferentiated  instruction a reality for all teachers.  I think blended learning also activates the concept of life-long learners in a 21st century....  when the curriculum is online, collaboration can occur outside of the classroom, learning is not confined to school hours and add credence to the idea that we are constantly learning.

  • karen   Sept. 27, 2011, 7:55 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Greg   Sept. 21, 2011, 5:53 p.m.

    I like your image of a continuum and especially of finding the best place on the continuum for your students -- that's what this is all about !

    I appreciate your thought tht trying to further define hte term could stifle out-of-the-box thinking. That's a really excellent point.

    I guess I'm just a little weary of some really great ideas (e.g. "green," "open," "natural," "organic," etc.) being turned into marketing labels that bear little resemblance to what they originally stood for. But encouraging creative thinking without pre-imposed boundaries is so important. Thanks for helping me see that.

  • Anonym   Sept. 19, 2011, 1:54 p.m.

    Blended learning is a combination of “whole”.  I like to think of it similar to the whole language learning theory.  Some ESL teachers teach language in small pieces by working on small chunks at a time, but learners can’t necessary connect the pieces to the whole puzzle.  I like to think of blended classroom the same thing.  The online teacher is just a piece of that puzzle.  It is important to connect the two.  The student should be learning face to face with a teacher, online learning, and collaborating with peers on the same topic.  Sometimes it’s hard to reach out to my online learners because students don’t think of me as their teachers because I am just somewhere out there in “cyber space” lol.  So I think it is important to have an online facilitator in order to walk around and help the students stay on task and complete my assignments.  Students should also be given the opportunity to work with others in order to collaboratively learn as well.  A blended classroom is a mixture of all these elements working together as one.