This workshop is a primer on blended learning, offering an overview of different blended learning formats (think the “Instruction Mode Definitions” for McMaster) and how to effectively and efficiently adapt an existing or design a new course to leverage elements of blended course design. Although this may sound daunting, you might be surprised to learn that you have more usable components from existing courses and previous experiences teaching in-person and online than you think!
We will provide you with opportunities to reflect on your course components and overall course (re)design throughout this workshop. We will also demonstrate a framework for best integrating these components based on your chosen blended format, keeping in mind general strategies and considerations that apply across all types of blended teaching and learning workshops.
By the end of this workshop, you should be able to describe blended learning and its various forms and apply principles to effectively blend pre-existing in-person and online components, taking into account your specific teaching context and learning outcomes. We hope you come away from this workshop with a clearer picture of what your blended course will look like and a greater sense of preparation and confidence to teach in a blended environment.
By the end of this workshop, you should be able to…
- Describe blended learning and distinguish between approaches to blended learning;
- Outline strategies and technical tools available for designing and delivering blended learning at McMaster University;
- Reflect on your course components, their modalities, and how best to integrate them to align with your learning outcomes.
While you go through the contents of this workshop, here is a guiding worksheet you can use to start sketching out the parameters of your blended course. This worksheet will help you prepare to design and storyboard your course more thoroughly, or you can use it as a brainstorming/notes sheet to help structure and organize your thinking.
We will reference this worksheet with cues to reflect on certain components or highlight specific principles throughout the workshop. Before proceeding, please download the document to your device and use it as you see fit!
What is Blended Learning?
In its simplest sense, blended learning refers to a course with both online and in-person elements. In a blended learning environment, online components are used to support and complement in-person components, and vice versa. Importantly, blended learning integrates online with face-to-face instruction in an intentional, pedagogically-informed manner, rather than simply adding or ‘trading off’ online with face-to-face content and activities (or vice versa) (Niemiec & Otte, 2005).
Watch the video below to learn more about what blended learning is. Consider how you would explain the term “blended learning” to a colleague or student unfamiliar with it, and how you might consider “blended learning” in the context of your course or discipline.If you want to, you can note your response in Section 1 – What is Blended Learning? of your worksheet.
As described in the video above, there are three types or structured formats of blended learning that you might consider when approaching blended course design: flipped, hybrid, and HyFlex classrooms. Tab through the figure below to learn more about the differentiating features of each type of blend and for some basic examples of how these blends might be used in higher education.
Hybrid & HyFlex Courses at McMaster
Although it may not be realistic to design and implement a fully HyFlex course from scratch, there are ways to apply the principles of accessibility and student choice in a hybrid course. Some examples can be found on the Instruction Mode Definitions for Fall/Winter 2021-2022; please review the examples and linked resources below for more information.
As you work through this content, please note down any information that clarifies your understanding of “blended learning” or any practices or considerations that might apply to your course or teaching context in Section 1 – What is Blended Learning? of your worksheet.
Course 1A03 has 3 lecture sections (C01 to C03), 6 lab sections (L01 to L06), and 6 tutorial sections (T01 to T06).
- All lecture sessions for sections C01 to C03 are planned to be offered on campus in a physical classroom. The instructor will rotate through the class such that 1/3 of the class attends on Mondays, 1/3 can attend in person on Tuesdays and the other 1/3 can attend on Thursdays. The instructor broadcasts the in-person lecture so that the other students can attend virtually.
- All lab sessions for sections L01 to L06 are planned to be offered on campus in a physical lab.
- All tutorial sessions for sections T01 toT06 are delivered in Zoom / Teams / etc. on the same day at the same time for the entire semester. For this scenario, the MOSAIC instruction mode assignments would be: • C01 to C03 – In Person (P) • L01 to L06 – In Person (P) • T01 to T06 – Virtual Classrooms (V)
For this scenario, the MOSAIC instruction mode assignments would be:
- C01 to C03 – In Person (P)
- L01 to L06 – In Person (P)
- T01 to T06 – Virtual Classrooms (V)
Course 1A03 has 2 lecture sections (C01, C02) and 10 tutorial sections (T01 to T10).
- Two of the 50-minute sessions for sections C01 and C02 are delivered in Zoom / Teams / etc. on the same day at the same time for the entire semester. The remaining 50-minute session is delivered as an online module in an LMS (e.g. Avenue to Learn).
- Students will have the choice of signing up for either virtual tutorials (where they will meet with their TA via Zoom or Teams) or in person tutorials (where they will meet with a TA in a room on campus, if permitted by Public Health).
For this scenario, the MOSAIC instruction mode assignments would be:
- C01, C02 – Virtual Classroom (V)
- T01 to T05 – Virtual Classroom (V)
- T06 to T10 – In Person (P)
Blended Learning Examples at McMaster & beyond
To get a better idea of the application of the above descriptions, we have included real-life blended course examples and reflections from McMaster faculty as well as examples from other postsecondary institutions below. Please explore these resources based on your interests and teaching context.
- In the first blended teaching and learning panel, we heard from Dr. Rita Cossa (DeGroote School of Business), Dr. Rashid Abu-Ghazalah (Biotechnology – Engineering), and Dr. Rosa Da Silva (Biology) as they described their experiences with blended course design, development, and delivery. Learn more about how these instructors implemented blended teaching and learning practices in “Blended Course Examples: McMaster.”
- In the second panel, we heard from Jamie-Tyler Sewerniuk (Learning Technologies Help Desk, MacPherson Institute), Dr. Susie O’Brien (English and Cultural Studies), Dr. Bridget O’Shaughnessy (Economics), and Dr. Bruce Wainman (Education Program in Anatomy, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine). Check out “Blended Pedagogies II” for a summary of this panel discussion, including key takeaways and reflections from each panelist.
- Blended Learning Models – University of Lethbridge: This document outlines some common blended learning models at the University of Lethbridge – including “lab rotation,” the “flipped classroom,” “flex model,” and the “enriched virtual model” – and features some blended course examples.
- Examples of Blended Courses – University of Waterloo: This webpage describes blended courses across a variety of disciplines at the University of Waterloo.
- Blended Learning – University of Alberta: This resources from the Centre for Teaching and Learning at the University of Alberta provides a series of case studies on courses adapted for blended learning. Although not specific to blended learning in the context of COVID-19, the case studies offer useful approaches and strategies for designing blended learning experiences in higher education.
Whether you are building a blended course from scratch or looking to blend elements of existing in-person and online courses, course design is key. Starting with your intended learning outcomes, consider how instructional strategies, learning activities, and assessments will come together to support student learning, and how you will use a blend of in-person and online elements to create an integrated learning experience for your students.
If you are working from an existing in-person course, it can be tempting to try and directly translate the existing content, activities, and assessments into online modes of delivery (or vice versa). While we encourage you to re-use as much of any existing courseware as possible, please note that, sometimes, a direct translation or replication across modes is not feasible. Likewise, incorporating a blend into an existing in-person course is not as simple as just adding online elements (and thereby creating a ‘course-and-a-half’ with more work for both you and your students) (McGee & Reis, 2012).
- Before continuing, please take a few moments to describe your course in Section 2 – Course Design: Teaching Context of the worksheet. If you are not sure which blended approach or model you will use, do not fret! You can return to this after considering your course components and how you will deliver and integrate them across modalities.
In the slideshow below, we outline the basic steps of course design. As you review these steps, we encourage you to reflect your blended course (re)design, and note down some key considerations in the provided worksheet. Take time to carefully consider which mode(s) of delivery will best meet each of your course components, how, and why.
Strategies for Integrating Online & In-person Components
This page collates some tips, ideas and suggestions for optimizing the integration of your online and in-person course components. Click on each subheading to expand the sections, each containing ideas, suggestions or questions to consider as well as resources if you want to learn more.
As you work through this content, please reflect on the questions in Section 4 – Integrating Online & In-Person Components of your worksheet, noting down your responses:
- What do you foresee as the biggest advantage(s) of your chosen approach?
- What do you foresee will be a difficulty or challenge(s) of the approach, and how might you mitigate these challenges?
- What communication strategies will you apply and how?
- What tools will you use and why?
Then, map out some of the course components (i.e., content, activities, and assessments) you identified in Section 3 – Course Design: Component Modalities of your worksheet using the provided table. Use the strategies and tools you identified to help you plan for integration.
Storyboarding Your Blended Course
Now that you have considered your general course design and practical considerations for implementing blended learning across various mode(s) of delivery, we will introduce a method for building out your course and applying these considerations in more detail.
You can use a storyboard or narrative weekly schedule to illustrate the sequence of content, learning activities, and assessments that your students will follow for each week or module. In your storyboard, you will also consider through which modality (or modalities) the content and activities will be delivered and the general sequence that students will follow from week to week.
A storyboard will help you understand the whole picture of your course, rather than the specific details of each content item, activity, or assessment. Understanding the “whole picture” of your course and the learning experience that students will follow as they progress from week to week in your course will allow you to take a student-centred approach to course design, and reflect on how the various elements of your course come together to support student learning.
Storyboarding is a time-intensive and iterative process. While we encourage you to continue designing your blended course with a storyboard in mind, we recognize that this is not a feasible task to achieve in the context of this workshop.
Please download this storyboard template for you to use – or not use! – at your discretion. You may also wish to check out “Storyboarding Your Course” for more approaches storyboarding, including additional
Thank you for joining us in this workshop on Effective Teaching Strategies for Blended Learning! We hope that you now have a good understanding of what “blended learning” is and the different types or models for structing a blended course. We also hope that you are walking away from this workshop with some considerations of strategies and tools that you might apply to your blended teaching practice.
- Blended learning has several levels and formats, ranging from almost completely online with only an in-person lab/practical component to a flexible blend of online and in-person components with options for students to choose their preferred environment for lectures or tutorials.
- Regardless of where on this spectrum you find your course to be most suitable, certain principles and strategies apply equally across the different formats to promote a common standard of accessibility, communication and assessment.
- Storyboarding is a technique that enables the instructor to gain a “big-picture” understanding the purpose of your course and which modalities best support the intended learning outcomes. This exercise is a way to effectively and efficiently integrate pre-existing components you may have available from previous in-person or online teaching experiences and materials.
References & Resources
- Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching. (2021). Blended teaching: A guide for applying flexible practices during COVID-19. https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/blendedflexibleteaching/
What is Blended Learning?
- Hrastinski, S. (2019). What do we mean by blended learning? TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 63(5), 564-569.
- Cronje, J. (2020). Towards a new definition of blended learning.Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 18(2) 114-121.
- Niemeic, M., & Otte, G. (2005). An administrator’s guide to the whys and hows of blended learning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 13(1), 19-30.
- University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence. (n.d.). Blended learning. https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/support/blended-learning
Getting Started with Blended Course Design
- McGee, P. & Reis, A. (2012). Blended course design: A synthesis of best practices. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(4), 7-22.
- University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence. (n.d.). Best practices for designing blended courses. https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/teaching-tips-planning-courses-and-assignments/best-practices-designing-blended-courses
- University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence. (n.d.). Course design: Planning a flipped class. https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/planning-courses-and-assignments/course-design/course-design-planning-flipped-class
Storyboarding Your Blended Course
- The University of Western Ontario Centre for Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Part 2: Independent storyboarding (asynchronous option). https://teaching.uwo.ca/elearning/ABC_online_course_design/Part_2.html