WHAT IS BLENDED LEARNING?

Blended learning is a term often used at universities but just as often it is a term that can lead to ambiguity and confusion as to what it actually entails. For RMIT blended learning is explained as ‘a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace’ (RMIT 2018). This viewpoint is supported by Jeffrey et al who describe blended learning as ‘a mode of teaching that eliminates time, place, and situational barriers’ (2014 p.122).

BUT WHY?

Including elements of blended learning, if done well and effectively, can impact positively on student satisfaction in courses. This is because blended learning can provide students increased flexibility in their learning. They are able to enjoy face-to-face education with peers and educators while also being able to complement and enhance their learning through digital and online elements (Vioreanu 2018). These online elements can be undertaken when it best suits the student e.g. at home, in the evening, on weekends, on a mobile device on the train, in snippets or revisiting certain elements etc.

There is research and evidence to support that students in blended courses perform better than in fully face-to-face courses or fully online courses (Means et al 2010; Eryilmaz 2015). Despite this, there is still reluctance by many educators to engage with forms of online learning (Jeffrey et al 2014). As a consequence, educators ‘who fail to recognise the benefits of online learning are less likely to create effective blended courses’ (p.123). The inevitable lack of student satisfaction then reinforces the educator’s ‘belief that such additions to the traditional classroom have little value’ (p.123). What this highlights is the importance for universities to clearly identify what blended learning means to that institution and to provide educators with strategies and protocols for blended learning implementation.

REFERENCES

Eryilmaz, M 2015, The effectiveness of blended learning environments, Contemporary Issues In Education Research, vol. 8, no. 4, pp.251-256

Jeffrey, LM, Milne, J, Suddaby, G & Higgins, A 2014, ‘Blended learning: How teachers balance the blend of online and classroom components’, Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, vol. 13, pp. 121-140

Means, B, Toyama, Y, Murphy, R, Murphy, R, Bakia, M & Jones, K 2010, Evaluation of evidence based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education

RMIT University 2018, Learning Design Pattern Collection, RMIT University, viewed 7 March 2018, https://emedia.rmit.edu.au/learningpatterns/category/blended-learning

Vioreanu, D 2018, Blended learning – Mixing the best of distance and on-campus higher education, Distance Learning Portal, viewed 7 March 2018, https://www.distancelearningportal.com/articles/641/blended-learning-mixing-the-best-of-distance-and-on-campus-higher-education.html