Getting started with blended learning

If you are interested in transforming your teaching into a blended format, these four questions are beneficial to consider:

  • What post-course competencies do my students struggle most with?
    It is these competencies you should consider when supporting blended learning. E.g. you can work with students’ analytical skills or abilities to reflect upon their own learning with a digital peer-reviewing tool, support group work, and collaboration skills with online work documents and forums, or spark creativity with digital student creations.

  • In which teaching and learning activities are my students most passive?
    Research has proven numerous times that humans learn most effectively by being active in the learning process – this means that you will strengthen your learning environment by transforming your passive activities to active ones. E.g. breaking a long lecture up into smaller bits with peer-discussion breaks or group work activities in between. Use polling systems, quizzes, or digital discussion boards to sum up the activity and provide collective feedback or be bold and ‘flip’ your teaching entirely.

  • Where are ‘the low hanging fruits’?
    Course development is a challenging task and it takes time, so it is a good idea to do it one step at a time and let the transformation be a process. Are there parts of your teaching that fit the online medium more than others? Some technologies even allow for more learning to take place or facilitate a specific kind of learning activity that might not be possible without the technology. Proper change takes time – teaching is just like research – to excel you must try new things and change accordingly to results.

  • How can I offer my students interactivity and feedback on their learning?
    Interactive teaching styles promote an atmosphere of attention and participation. As you well know, telling is not teaching and listening is not learning. When you plan on going blended remember to give your students problems to think about and discuss in pairs or groups. Use the digital tools to let them make their voices heard – in short writings on MindMeister, or in short video hand-ins. Let them review and share thoughts and ideas as feedback in group discussions or as opponent groups/panels – eg. In Peergrade or in discussion fora on Canvas.
Further considerations
Alignment and design

Be aware to design your course with a meaningful connection between the online and face-to-face learning activities. Alignment and bonding between the different activities will strengthen the students’ potential for deep learning.

Time and workload of students

Be aware of the amount of time it takes students to complete course activities. If more time is spent out of class doing coursework, then you might cut down class face-to-face time or cut out other course assignments. Blended learning is not an excuse to load on extra work on students but a way of being more efficient with the time spent.

Framing of activities

Online learning will require more autonomous studying from students and they may need additional support in the form of clear guidelines, expectations for participation, and deadlines throughout the course. Explain your rationale for using blended learning and describe the learning benefits.

Tech natives?

Students’ ability to use technology may vary and studies show that even though students are used to technology outside of their formal education, they are not necessarily experts in the tools you use in formal educational settings. Be prepared to support students in using technology and perhaps start your course with a low-stakes online assignment to get students acclimated.