Blended Education

Introduction

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.

Meet our experts on blended education
  • George Ubachs, European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU), Chair

  • Katie Goeman, Katholieke University of Leuven (KU Leuven)

  • Stephan Poelmans, Katholieke University of Leuven (KU Leuven)

  • Willem van Valkenburg, Technical University Delft (TU Delft)

EMPOWER offers

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 supports and guides universities to build on latest research and innovations in the field and implements these within an institutional sustainable strategy. It supports risk management by using proven practices and change management by referring to (staff-) incentives and support structures that are actually working at frontrunner universities.

Tools & resources

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Blended Learning webinar week:

25 - 27 June 2019

In the Mix

Blended. It used to refer to something you did in the kitchen. With a machine. It saved you having to mix ingredients with your hands or a utensil. It took away a lot of the effort. Hopefully, the end result was edible. Now blended has come to mean something else, at least in the education domain. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about blended learning? 

Once, blended learning was an easy concept to understand. It described the difference between traditional and distance education. Face-to-face learning experiences were mixed with remote learning, usually mediated through some kind of technology. First, it was paper-based, and then followed a rapid evolution of technology, so that now the ‘ distance' side of blended learning comes in many shades and hues. The most common form of blended learning today is where you spend some time in the classroom, but the majority of your time studying online. Sams and Bergman call it the flipped classroom. It's a form of blended learning, but it’s not new. Blended learning is taking on a number of other connotations, because thanks to the advent of the digital device, there are now many more modes of learning. Consider for example the blend between mobile and tethered learning experiences. You can be mobile and take your learning beyond the classroom, but you can be away from the classroom and still be tethered to your technology. In this session, I will explore issues around these developments, and some of the alternative possibilities for what we now call 'blended learning'. By Steve Wheeler, Plymouth University, UK

 

European Maturity Model of Blended Education 

Universities face challenges as keeping quality with large student numbers and lower budgets per learner, supporting study progress and success and meeting the needs of part-time students. Innovation by blended education will lead to quality enhancement of the learning experience, personalization, accessibility,  flexibility and inclusion. Furthermore, blended education is suitable for teaching large groups synchronously and asynchronously; constituting small learning groups; capitalizing on the worldwide connection with research; multi-campus education and blended mobility, etc.

Blended education combines conventional and digital methods to achieve an “optimal exploitation of ICT and internet” integrated with the conventional technologies of physical material and co-presence in space and time. The value of blending the two is that digital methods offer much greater personalization, flexibility, inclusiveness and efficiency than conventional methods can, but they have to be used appropriately (Laurillard, 2015). The concept of blended learning itself is far from clear-cut. The literature spans various definitions and meanings,  e.g. ”the thoughtful integration of conventional and digital methods of teaching and learning” (Graham, et al., 2013). It is agreed that the digital is not a supplement and does not simply replicate aspects of the conventional – each should enhance the other. The EMBED project is about introducing innovation in higher education by the implementation of blended learning (b-learning) in a strategic partnership and beyond. The partnership consists of frontrunner universities in b-learning European wide for full expert representation. They will create a reference model for developing and implementing blended learning, embracing all levels of an institution: the design of the blended course, organisational aspects such as staff support and training, and institutional leadership, developing policies and strategies making the institution continuously innovative. It is a maturity model with criteria and instruments to assess the degree of maturity of b-learning and innovation. (Wiebe Dijkstra, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands)


Proposal for strategic refocusing in UNED Local Centers

The success of UNED since 1972 can be due to some classic factors of open universities (e.g. change from an elite to a massive system of high-quality services, innovation in learning and teaching, flexible practice centred on the student, use of new technologies or admission of non-traditional students), but it has also been cemented in other factors as its blended-learning model with a large physical territorial structure: 61 Local Centres and 120 classrooms within the Spanish State, besides 13 Centres in different countries of the world, mainly in Europe, North and South America and Africa, whose funding depends, in addition to those of the university itself, on the public or private initiative and local or regional administrations that become part of its governing board and make strategic decisions, in unequal and variable proportions, plus an academic structure at its headquarters by the Ministry of Education. 

Traditional face-to-face tutoring is progressively decreasing due to the current support that all our students receive by online means; in this sense, our blended-learning model requires to be updated according to the evolution and development of society itself and the availability of advanced learning methodologies supported by technologies (such as the incorporation of artificial intelligence). Local centres are urged, thus, to develop new academic services giving an answer to the demands and challenges of higher education in the XXI century. In this context, I will explain the possibilities for a recalibration of the role of UNED Local Centres, suggesting some relevant developments more focused on life-long learning possibilities, such as higher support to entrepreneurship,employment, specialisation, research and transference; and other contributions such as local support to open and online programs under a GLOCAL approach, taking advantage of our privilege connection with the immediate environment. By Luis Fernández, UNED, Spain 

 

Active learning and blended & flipped models

A selection of tools to improve feedback in virtual and face-to-face spaces 

 "Flipped learning and Blended learning models are often used with the same meaning, but there are some differences, we could say that “all flipped is blended but not all blended is flipped”, we will start by clarifying some misunderstandings and wrong conceptions about both learning strategies. Once we have done this, we will analyse some tools with a huge potential to improve feedback with students both in the virtual and face-to-face spaces, Specifically, we will pay special attention to features as “heat maps”, “gamification possibilities and “multimedia options”. (Raúl Santiago, University of La Rioja, Spain)


Why Diversity Matter in ODL? Case of Anadolu University

Learner demographics have a wide range of differences in massive education systems. Disadvantaged groups, digital skills groups, different socio-economic levels, different learning styles are some examples of these differences. Thus, ODL needs to be accessible for all learner groups with diversity in learning environments, learning materials, media types, student support services, blended learning opportunities and assessment types. ANADOLU University Open Education System as a Mega University aims to provide this diversity to 1.2 million students from 36 countries. (Elif Toprak and Mehmet Firat, Anadolu University, Turkey) 

Digital Media Arts in Open and Distance Education 

This presentation introduces a PhD programme in Digital Media Arts and explains how we explore expressiveness to its maximum extent through computer graphics, digital sound and music, computer vision, digital storytelling, virtual reality, amongst other technologies, in the context of Open and Distance Education. Through a blended learning, approach students explore techniques of artistic expression in order to generate new media applications, products, narratives, games and aesthetic experiences in such areas as the cultural industries, education and entertainment. By José Bidarra, Universidade Aberta, Portugal


Panel discussion on the present and future of Blended Learning

Panel discussion by Stephan Poelmans, KU Leuven, Belgium & Steve Wheeler, Plymouth University, UK & Antonio Moreira Teixeira, University of Aberta, Portugal