The information on this page is intended to be a resource for the design & development of a blended learning course at the postsecondary level.
Designing, developing & implementing a blended course is an iterative process where evaluation (self-reflection, formal and information feedback from stakeholders, etc.) continually drives the redesign and redevelopment of course components for subsequent implementations.
Designing a Blended Course
While there is no single approach to designing a blended course, this section offers a number of questions to ponder and suggestions to get you started. For more information and support in designing your blended course, please contact us.
What are the overall goals of this course? What should students know by the end of the course? What skills should they possess? What attitudes should they have? Within each topic or unit, what specific outcomes do you expect your students to achieve? How will students be assessed? These are some of the questions you should consider during your initial planning stages, prior designing lessons or activities.
You may find it helpful to create a course blueprint to help you organize this information. A course blueprint can help guide you through the planning and implementation of your course. There are a number of different ways to create course blueprints, but we recommend they contain the following features:
- The course description and course goals.
- A course description is a general statement about what the course is going to cover. It is the description offered in the University of Alberta course catalog. In addition to content information, you may want to include that the course will follow a blended learning format.
- Goals are broad statements about the intended knowledge, skills, and attitudes that students are intended to learn, experience, and appreciate during the course. Goal statements are written from the instructor’s point of view and provide a framework for the specific objectives. It is recommended to have only three or four goal statements per course. Some prompts for goals statements could be:
- Students will become acquainted with…
- Students will develop an understanding of…
- Students will develop an appreciation for…
- Students will gain experience with…]
- Student learning outcomes.
- Learning outcomes are statements about what students should know or be able to do but are specific to a module, unit, or topic. They should be measureable on assessments, and written in a way that students can understand. For more information on learning objectives and outcomes and how to write them, please see this information sheet, or contact us.
- Assessments evaluate student learning and should overlap with the course outcomes and instruction.
- Assessments may be summative, (used to assign grades or formally evaluate students), or formative (used to provide feedback to students and the instructor about students’ learning).
- While you are planning your course and creating your test blueprint, you may want to ask yourself: How many assessments should I include? What type of assessments should I include? (e.g. test, assignment, paper, portfolio, report, sketch) When should these assessments take place? What learning outcomes will they evaluate?
Once you have developed your course blueprint, you can begin to think about how you will approach ‘blending’ your course. Some questions you can ask yourself at this stage are:
- How much of the course, overall, do you want to blend? (The entire course? One unit?)
- What blended approach, or approaches (e.g. flipped class, web-enhanced, flexible labs) might be suitable for this course?
- What learning outcomes (content) could be best delivered online or by distance? (And how could they be enhanced through in-class activities?)
- Is there content that students typically struggle with? What approach might best support students in understanding this content?
- Are there areas where students may benefit from more active or hands-on learning opportunities?
Once you have made some decisions about what sections of the course you want to blend, there are some additional questions to consider. For the blended sections of the course:
- Which components will be online? Which will be face-to-face?
- What particular activities / tasks would help students to meet each learning outcome? (e.g. reading, video, discussion)
- What order will activities occur in?
- *How will the online and in-class components relate to and build upon one another?
- How will the online components be delivered to students? (through eClass/ Moodle?)
- What are students’ responsibilities for this module / unit? When do they need to have tasks completed by? How will these expectations be communicated to students?
- How will students know when they meet face-to-face vs online?
- How and when will students interact with one another?
- How and when will students be able to interact with the instructor(s) / TA(s)?
- Is the workload reasonable for students? How would the workload compare to a non-blended course?
- How and when will students be assessed?
While there is no single approach to designing and developing your blended course, there are a few things that it may be helpful to keep in mind. In particular:
- Focus on enhancing learning, not simply ‘adding technology’. The use of technology in a blended course should be purposeful, well conceived, and focused on supporting students’ learning. In some cases, technology may not be suitable or enhance learning beyond what could be achieved in a face-to-face setting. Ask yourself: “Will using this technology enhance students’ learning?”
- Familiarize yourself with different options for online and in-class learning elements / activities so you can implement a variety into your course. There are a number of ways to help students meet learning outcomes. In the online environment, they could watch videos, complete readings, engage in simulations, utilize software, create models, participate in synchronous or asynchronous discussion, complete quizzes, and more. In face-to-face environments, you have an opportunity to implement active learning activities that may not be possible in an unblended course. Active learning is a student-centred strategy where the learner participates in the acquisition of knowledge and skills instead of receiving a traditional didactic lecture. Active learning activities involve discussing, writing, and experiential skill development. Examples of active learning activities include think-pair-share, debates, case studies, role play, simulations, hands-on problem solving, peer tutoring, presentations and performances. For more information on online and face-to-face elements that you could incorporate into your course, please contact us.
- Ensure that both you and students understand how the online and face-to-face components of the course relate to and build upon one another. During your planning process, you may find a blended learning mix-map to be a useful tool to help you visualize these connections. While teaching the course, don’t assume students will see these connections on their own – you may need to explicitly identify these relationships for students (e.g. “The video you watch on Tuesday will provide you with important background information for the in-class activity on Thursday”). This helps students to understand how both components enhance their learning.
- Recognize that developing a quality blended course requires time and effort. Planning a blended or online course may require more time and effort than planning a traditional classroom experience (Anderson & Elloumi, 2004). Prepare yourself for this additional workload and seek supports wherever possible.
- Be adaptable! Teaching and learning is dynamic and often involves unexpected twists and turns. Approaches that have been shown to work well in other classes may not work as well within your particular class context. You should expect that you will need to adapt and modify your course in order to better support students and improve your teaching experience.
The information provided here is a remix containing materials licensed under a variety of open licenses including:
- derivative work of content from Blended Learning Toolkit, by JR Dingwall, available under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence;
- derivative work of content from The BlendKit Reader, edited by Dr. Kelvin Thompson, available under a CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0 license;
- derivative work of content from Design of Blended Learning in K-12 inBlended Learning in K-12, available under a CC-BY-SA 3.0
- derivative work of content from Planning Your Online Course, by June Kaminski and Sylvia Currie. This work was published in Education for a Digital World for BCcampus and the Commonwealth of Learning and is available under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license;
Anderson, T. & Elloumi, F. (2004). Theory and practice of online learning. Athabasca: Athabasca University.
Colburn, A. (2003). The lingo of learning: 88 education terms every science teacher should know. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.