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So, who controls which parts of a course of study are to be engaged with in the classroom, and which parts are engaged with online? That's rhetorical, because typically, it's the tutor, and more typically, almost all of the teaching activities take place in the class, with some additional activities to be conducted as 'independent' or 'self-managed' learning.
This post argues these ways need to be rethought. Well actually, I (and other colleagues) have been arguing this point for a number of years. In 2009, I worked with a colleague in a curriculum development activity to design a completely online Perioperative Care module. During the process, we questioned how we could benefit the holistic learning and teaching experience by bringing together the face-to-face class with the online class, and offer much more freedom for learners to control their own 'blend' in the learning experience.
Essentially, we encouraged learners to decide which parts of the module they wanted to study online, and which parts they wanted to come to class for. With increasing financial demands on Faculty, these modules could be marketed as completely online modules, completely face-to-face modules, or a mix of both. Learners arrive at University with expectations related to the use of technology in learning and teaching, and have increasing demands on their time, whether it be through work or personal commitments. As they begin to pay more for their Higher Education, they will come to demand more for their investment (or debt, as it will be for many) - here, more could mean 'more choice', 'more flexibility' or just 'more'. We felt (and feel) that our approach could cater to these demands, and was termed 'Mode Neutral' during an Institutional Validation Event. The name kind of stuck (whether we like it or not). In earlier published work, we defined it as;
"A method that allows students to progress across modes of delivery (face-to-face, online and blended) at any point throughout their study based on their preferences, requirements, personal and professional commitments without compromising their learning"We debated the key factors that would facilitate such a flexible and fluid learning arrangement, and identified three Dimensions; The Role of the Tutor, Curriculum Design, and Communication for Learning, and each are required to maximise the student experience.
As our thinking evolved, we realised that these dimensions are not simply 'present' or 'not present', but instead are present in various degrees - almost three dimensional. The degree to which the dimensions are present rely on the implementation of certain 'conditions', and therefore could be visualised;
To summarise, our attempts challenge(d) the long standing approaches of tutor-controlled blended learning. Of course, there are significant workload implications in introducing such flexibility, but if this positively impacts upon the student experience, it's worth it.
Where do you stand on the term 'Blended Learning', and who should control this blend?
You can read about our more substantial thoughts, including details of conditions within each dimension, through;
Reed. P, Smith. B, Sherratt. C (2008) eLearning and Digital Media. Vol 5; No 3.
As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts....
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.