A consensus is emerging that blended education, a term that embraces various combinations of classroom presence and online study, will become the most common approach to teaching and learning in higher education.
Technology is now widely accepted as a normal part of university education, by both students and teachers, and is seen by many as the solution to problems such as scaling up with limited funding. The adoption of MOOCs and fully online education by high-ranked universities has reduced the negative view of technology in higher education. To support these changes, most universities have “eLearning centres” of some kind, with professional “learning technologists/instructional designers” who work with teachers to create and deliver blended and fully online courses.
The past decade, blended education has received increased attention in educational settings, leading to diverse outcomes and sometimes conflicting terminology and boundaries. Existing b- learning frameworks and research instruments do not comply with scholars’, practitioners’ or policymakers’ needs. As such, the analysed international practices and case studies within (and outside) the European Union, are often incomparable and contingent upon the context of a particular institution, hindering the sharing of knowledge. A common ground of best practices and policies is needed for further cooperation, innovation and implementation. Especially now as many related initiatives are starting in several countries that could directly benefit from sharing expertise and proven practices within universities European-wide. According to the EUA trend report on e-learning, 49% of European universities have already an institutional policy on e-learning as another 26% is thinking of developing one (EUA publication; E-learning in European Higher Education Institutions; EUA 2014).
In order to improve educational quality, and a standardized approach, it is necessary to strengthen the cooperation and networking between expert organisations nationally as well as internationally at the European level. It is within this context that the expert pool on blended education wants operate and contribute to the creation of the multi-level monitor and implementation framework. A reference of educational innovation by blended education is especially needed knowing that most universities still consider online education as a (video) coverage of on-campus models of education. Only with a reference of quality online education we can guide universities in a full institutional adoption of technology supported teaching, with inclusion of the latest innovations in pedagogies and didactics. If not, European universities will miss an opportunity of thorough innovation and restrict enhanced education by asynchronous online broadcasting. Except for being online, this is not much different from broadcasted education of the 70s.
The blended education expert pool will support and guide universities to build on latest research and innovations in the field and implement these within an institutional sustainable strategy. It will support risk management by using proven practices and change management by referring to (staff-) incentives and support structures that are actually working at frontrunner universities.